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Providing critical care for the elderly during COVID-19

How a tech-based start-up is saving lives during India’s devastating new wave.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Much has been said and written about the shortage of hospital beds and oxygen as India continues its devastating battle with a relentless second wave of COVID-19. Less discussed is the growing importance of in-home care, in a society where hospitals have traditionally been accessible only to the wealthy (putting aside the levelling effects of COVID-19).

Now, as COVID-19 decimates India’s fragile hospital system, access to in-home care for the elderly has become an increasingly scarce luxury, and a source of unabating concern particularly for those overseas. But even in such challenging circumstances, innovative in-home care start-ups such as Emoha Elder Care are still finding ways to provide care where others have failed – and in doing so, providing invaluable peace of mind for relatives near and far.

India’s young population is well documented: there are 600 million people under the age of 25 in the country. But India’s youth and its elderly are inextricably linked; recent studies showing that 68% of daughters-in-law and 51% of sons provide some form of physical care to their elderly in-laws. These responsibilities have historically traversed international borders even as newer generations have migrated away from India, but as borders have shut in recent months, so too have these responsibilities become harder to fulfil.

COVID VOLUNTEERS emoha
Emoha’s COVID volunteers

Emoha is a technology-powered community platform which responds to these challenges. It connects elders with caregivers, doctors, family and friends, with subscription-based membership models that provide for 24/7 emergency responses, regular tele-consults for COVID-positive patients, support for household errands and online emotional wellbeing activities and events. Emoha claims to have saved more than 120 lives during COVID-19 – now at a rate of 5 to 7 lives per night – including having carried out more than 100,000 “care calls” to its community of elderly patients.

Emoha was co-founded two years ago by Saumyajit Roy, now also its CEO, after he identified a gap in the market for elder services. In an interview with Indian Link, Roy laments the perception that aging means being “sick, alone and helpless”.

“I knew then, and now we all see, that the new generation of elders are all very educated, alert, have loads of self-respect and an innate sense of independence,” he says.

picnic elder welfare association
Picnic by the Elder Welfare Association (supplied)

Even though Roy may have anticipated the surge in demand for more holistic elder care services, it is clear that Emoha’s work is now ploughing ahead at a furious pace that even he could not have predicted, particularly as otherwise helpless NRIs seek support and assistance for their elderly relatives.

Roy tells story after story of Emoha’s recent efforts to assist NRIs and provide them with some semblance of comfort, even in the darkest moments. He speaks for instance of siblings in the United States and Australia who were unable to travel to India to care for their COVID-19 positive father. Emoha cared for him throughout his COVID-19 battle, from navigating various emergencies and even, sadly, performing his last rites.

Then there is the daughter based in the United States, whose elderly father’s dipping blood oxygen levels were initially cause for concern, but ultimately managed successfully through Emoha’s access to rapid laboratory testing facilities and other clinical support. Or the son whose COVID-19 positive parents Emoha ferried by ambulance all night to various hospitals, ultimately returning them home with oxygen support in the early hours of the morning.

Emoha’s online services, including access to information and events, and tele-consults by doctors, are available across India – all that is required is a tablet, PC or smartphone with a reliable internet connection. Emoha also offers in-home services in Delhi, such as doctor visits, physical responders, and “care angels”. These higher-end services include facilitating access to hospitals, ICU care, oxygen, vaccinations and, more recently, cremations. It plans to expand these services to other areas in the coming months, beginning with Maharashtra and Pune.

Even during COVID-19, “healthcare is not the only need that these elders have,” says Roy.

“This is where Emoha comes in – we bring in the care, the love, and the touch of what a son and daughter would do for their parents,” he concludes.

Further information for NRIs about Emoha’s elder care services is available here or by calling +1 888 866 0486.

READ ALSO: $6.25M grant for an Indian aged care facility in NSW


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Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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