Caring for our seniors

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Sydney’s Guruswamy Jayaraman is recognised with the OAM in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours

Guruswamy Jayaraman was thrilled when his parents came visiting from India in 1991, quite early in his life in Australia. He had been waiting to show them the life he had built for himself and his young family in Sydney, having moved here in 1986. Imagine his surprise when half way through their six-month stay, they announced that they wanted to cut short their visit.

There was not much for them to do here, especially during the day.

The particular challenges that face our elderly parents hit home immediately.

Sri Om Care. Indian Link

Today, more than twenty five years later, Jayaraman is well-known in our community for his programs in aged care services.

His social enterprise Sri Om Care delivers culturally relevant services to seniors in Sydney’s South Asian community.

For this, and for his other welfare services to the Indian community, Jayaraman has been recognised with an OAM honour.

“The announcement surprised and thrilled me,” he admits, but adds in his trademark self-effacing manner, “It is a recognition of our community – of the way we’ve grown in this country and of the work that we do.”

Of his own work, Jayaraman tells Indian Link, “We run day centres in eight suburbs in the Western Sydney region. Here we run structured programs involving exercise, recreational and cultural activities, and regular outings. Admission is free, and we provide morning tea and lunch. The activities enable our elderly to develop new skills, live healthy and make new friends.”

A range of other services are offered for home care of the elderly. These include domestic assistance, personal care, respite care, transitional care (after hospitalisation, for example), physiotherapy, transport and shopping assistance.

“These services are aimed to allow the elderly to live as independently as possible in their own environment and community,” Jayaraman says. “In recent years, we have tied up with the larger mainstream aged care companies to provide these services to their South Asian clients.”

Besides specialising in personalised care services for the elderly, Sri Om Care also provides housing assistance to older people who are in danger of becoming homeless, advisory services for them to gain information about specific services, and advocacy for seniors at government and community levels.

A sad aspect of this work in aged care has been the cases of elder abuse that have come to Jayaraman’s notice. Financial abuse is an increasing complaint, such as when parents sell off their hard-fought assets in India to help their adult children settle in here, only to find themselves totally dependent and often neglected.

Jayaraman chokes up as he talks of the gratitude shown to him by not only these but other seniors under his care.

“Their appreciation is what gives me the most joy,” he says.

Jayaraman is inspired in his work by the Hindu spiritual master Sri Om Adi Sakthiyendra Swamigal, in whose name his charitable organisation in Sydney, Sri Om Care, is founded. Before he plunged headlong into aged care, Jayaraman served on community organisations Sewa International Australia, VHP Australia and the Hindu Council of Australia.

He is currently the Chair of Auburn Diversity Services.

An IT professional by background, Jayaraman worked hard to acquire the skills and networks needed for his work in aged care. “Funding was scarce in the beginning, but it gradually began to trickle in, from local councils, government and even the community. From relying on donated food and facilities, we have now grown to utilising the services of specialised, qualified staff.”

But funding was not the only problem.

“For our very first day centre at Seven Hills, we had to convince the carers, and in many cases the seniors themselves, to come and avail of our service,” Jayaraman recounts. “The families would often say, we are taking care of all of their needs, thank you. We had to overcome the resistance that the adult children showed!”

How would he like the community to help him today?

“Come and check us out,” he says with confidence. “See the work we do, recognise us, give us credit for the work we do, and let us serve you.”

You could also help by donating to Sri Om Care: the not-for-profit organisation has DGR status (donations above $2 are tax deductible).

And if you are inspired by Jayaraman’s story, perhaps you could consider volunteering your time in the care of our seniors.

Learn more about Sri Om Care at www.sriomcare.org.au