This book highlights the needs of India’s elderly community

Chennai-based founder of Old is Gold and author Sanjay Dattatri talks about his book ‘The Home Stretch: Family Caregiver’s Handbook’, a sensitive guide on elder care which throws light on the needs of our ageing population

“In our country, with the culture of the joint family disappearing due to various reasons, the percentage of elderly parents living by themselves has increased drastically. The pandemic has further aggravated their plight, and added another dimension to this issue,” says Sanjay Dattatri, author of The Home Stretch: Family Caregiver’s Handbook, (Penguin).

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Sanjay, a software engineer, in the last seven years has been working on various initiatives to make the lives of the elderly in India better. He has been running Old is Gold, a store exclusively for senior citizens, in Chennai for the past five years. He adds, “There was already a certain amount of isolation and with the pandemic they became completely left to themselves, with no visitors and they could not even seek any assistance from relatives or friends either.”

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“The pandemic has taken away the social life of the geriatric population and further isolated them in their twilight years. I observed that their interpersonal skills were affected and depression among the elders is now common,” he says. The author had spent many years taking care of his bed-ridden mother; the book reflects his caregiving experience and interactions with doctors, counsellors, senior citizens and other caregivers.

‘To build a happier life’

Sanjay’s book is an empathetic, useful guide that seeks to simplify caregiving and equip readers with the tools and guidance required to build a safer, happier and more comfortable life for the elders around them.

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“I often come across women in their 80s taking care of their 90-year-old invalid husbands single handedly. I also once came across a woman in her 70s caring for her 100-year-old father-in-law, 88-year-old mother-in- law and 90-year-old mother, with little help from her husband or other family members,” says Sanjay. Most often, the sons and daughters, often living abroad or in other locations in India, think that sending money would suffice.

From tips on maintaining their health and independence to taking care of the bedridden, the book covers a wide range of topics to meet the progressively complicated needs of ageing loved ones.

One particular topic, remote caregiving, is of greater relevance during the pandemic. “I suggest that families organise video calls on a regular basis to stay in touch with the elders. The pandemic has encouraged this trend and I am glad that technology brings cheer to elders. During one-on-one calls there may not be much to talk about, but when siblings and cousins get together on a video call much can be discussed and elders overcome their loneliness,” Sanjay says.

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