Elderly prefer old age homes run by charitable institutions

BY JOAO SOUSA M | NT

PANAJI: The old age homes managed by the Institute of Public Assistance (Provedoria) account for only 25 per cent of the elderly living in such homes in the state.

The Provedoria has nine old age homes in the state which can cater to about 405 inmates; however, there are only about 300 inmates in these homes. Goa, which has an elderly population of about 80,000-90,000, has around 1,200 elderly living in old age homes of which almost 900 are housed in homes run by private and religious institutions.

A recent survey by this newspaper revealed that tedious entry procedures and poor quality of care at old age houses managed by government are making the elderly prefer old age homes run by religious and charitable institutions.

The Institute of Public Assistance is currently running four old age homes at Panaji (Altinho), Chimbel, Mapusa and Candolim and five old age homes in South Goa at Majorda, Loutolim, Chinchinim, Margao and Cuncolim; however, the old age homes are having an occupancy of about 70 per cent.

Sources close to Provedoria said that the procedure for admitting an elderly in the old age home is quite tedious and one has to submit poverty certificate obtained from the village panchayat or income certificate from the mamlatdar or village panchayat which then has to be countersigned by the block development officer. Apart from this, the applicant also has to submit residential certificate issued by the competent authority. The applicants also need to submit health certificate issued by the health centre or government hospital or a registered medical practitioner certifying the state of health of the applicant, the nature of sickness and whether the applicant is mentally sound or is a handicap and confirmation that the applicant does not suffer from any contagious disease.

The source further said that applicants who suffer from paralysis are not admitted in old age homes run by Provedoria as there is shortage of staff to take care of them. "However, many politicians recommend elderly from their constituencies, even those suffering from complete paralysis."

She said that both male and female elderly of 60 years and above are provided shelter in these homes and the service is usually free for the helpless aged persons, handicapped and the blind. She further said that those applicants whose family members are away are granted admission against payment of maintenance charge fixed on the basis of the financial status of the family members. The source said that there is a high percentage of bachelors and spinsters in the old age homes run by the Provedoria.

However, the services at the Provedoria-run old age homes are poor with the authorities doing just the bare minimum for survival of the inmates. A visit to these old age homes does not give one a pleasant feeling as a pungent smell greets you as you enter these homes. Secondly the homes are poorly maintained as rain water was seen leaking from the roof. It was also observed that the Institute of Public Assistance has no facilities for recreation of the elderly except for a television set and the inmates are made to sleep in dormitories. The lighting in these old age homes is also very poor.

An inmate, Mr Francis Vaz (name changed) said, "There is no facility for recreation. Even the newspaper is purchased by me to pass my time as there is nothing to do the whole day. That apart, I spend a lot of time in prayer, there is nothing except for the television." When asked about the food provided, he said that they are given two breads for breakfast along with tea while cunjee or soup is provided at mid-day. "In the afternoon we are given rice, curry and fish (mostly sardines) while on Mondays and Thursdays we are provided with dal and papad. Some vegetable and a single bread is provided at night." He further said, "Well wishers do come to visit us from time to time, sometimes even providing decent meals, but it is rare."

Another inmate said, "Our family members have left us here. We cannot complain, as whatever they are giving us is fine. At least we have a bed to sleep and a meal to have at the end of the day. You cannot expect too much as these homes are run by the government."