Going Full Circle: Family, Caregivers, and Doing Our Bit for Science and Society

Living with an elderly parent or relative can significantly alter an individual’s lifestyle. A large amount of time that would have been allocated for leisure is instead devoted to caring for the elderly and added domestic responsibilities. A number of studies attest to caregiver stress as a major issue among those looking after elderly relatives. This not only has a severe impact on the caregiver’s mental and physical health but also contributes to strained family relations and in extreme cases elder abuse. Where children or younger relatives may not be present, the responsibility to care often falls on elderly spouses as in the case of 72 year old Kanaka Durgamma of Hyderabad when her husband N Subbarao became bedridden. In such cases, home-based caregivers are a boon, allowing for good quality, in-situ care of an elderly person without making them another chore for family members who may have health concerns of their own. Their presence helps to create a harmonious home environment where the elder is cherished and not seen as a burden.

Life Circle’s Patient Care Plan is geared specifically towards senior citizens who may be bed-ridden or those experiencing varied degrees of reduced mobility. Caregivers trained by the National Skills Development Corporation are hired to provide home-based care, which includes basic nursing where required, and assistance with activities of daily living. Life Circle, with support from French Groupe SOS, is designing a manual to further train caregivers in skills specific to certain morbidities so as to improve the overall patient experience and quality of care. In the Subbarao home today, Life Circle’s Sangitha Bag, his formal caregiver is a source of great comfort to Mr. Subbarao and his wife.

Mr. N. Subbarao and Kanaka Durgamma of HyderabadNon-family caregivers also experience stress, which is essential to address since it may affect the quality of care they are able to offer and consequently the elder person’s health and well-being. To this end, Life Circle has planned initiatives to help manage caregivers’ stress and ensure their well being. Since formal home-based care is still a novel concept in India, it is important to sensitise the client’s family to the specificity of the caregiver’s work and avoid situations where a caregiver may be asked to perform other domestic chores that are not a part of her job. Such awareness is created by in depth conversations with clients and their families.

Life Circle’s caregivers can be hired for any desired duration, creating easy engagement and payment options for clients. Since most caregivers are from rural areas and elect to stay outside the client’s home, Life Circle also provides them with lodging and boarding facilities, the cost of which is not passed onto clients. Thus, through their hiring practice, Life Circle serves another social goal by generating sustainable employment for skilled women workers from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Looking forward, Life Circle aims to transform the way elders are cared for in our homes and communities. By formalising non-family caregivers, they are pushing thfor change in the collective consciousness, where elder care at home is not merely dictated by ideals of filial duty, but guided by increased awareness among family members, about the needs of the elder and their own. At the same time, it is an excellent employment generation strategy, whereby increasing numbers of women are able to acquire marketable skills and readily find jobs.

LifeCircle co-founder Priya underlines, “Life Circle is sensitive to the huge changes that come about in a person's life when becomes a caregiver to an elderly person who is bedridden. We aspire to ease the burden to the primary caregiver and the family by being a trusted confidante and a source of support that both the family and the elderly person can rely upon”. As an addition to the caregiver program, the company also plans to offer courses and support groups for family members, to help them better understand non-medical elder care and significantly improve their own well being along with their elder relatives’. Support groups have also been planned for elders where they can learn more about their conditions and play an active role in how their health is managed. Future initiatives include organising health and social care professionals and even equipment, to create a one-stop solution where the various needs of an ageing person can be addressed.

Geriatric Health Research

While geriatric health is a well-developed area of public health research in many developed countries, India still faces a gap in quality data and research on the health and care needs of elders. Life Circle aims to address these gaps with its meticulous data collection initiatives. Detailed data is collected on morbidity and medication including how physicians and medication providers can be leveraged to obtain good quality affordable medication for elders suffering from multiple chronic conditions. Not only does this aid them in regularly optimising the business model, it helps them generate important evidence which may be used by researchers and governmental agencies. Life Circle also hopes to get employers to acknowledge the added stress incurred by employees who care for elderly relatives, and ultimately initiate changes in workplace culture to accommodate the same.

Policy and Insurance 

Another area that they are keen on influencing is insurance. Assessing current plans, especially how national insurance programs are laid out and whether they can be utilised to provide home based care. They also hope to influence policy change in elder care by examining care-seeking patterns among poor elders, pushing for revaluation of existing programs like the Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP). Currently under the scanner as states fail to build more old age homes, funds from this program could be utilised to provide home based care to seniors instead. The need for awareness about elder care and its efficient management is not restricted to the public sector. By creating a sustainable but not solely profit-oriented enterprise, Life Circle is an organisation with heightened social awareness, on its way to create market intelligence in this subsector of healthcare.


Photo Top: Kanaka Durgamma with Sangitha Bag, Mr. Subbarao's caregiver ©Life Circle

Photo Right: Mr. N. Subbarao and Kanaka Durgamma of Hyderabad ©Life Circle