A charity set-up aims to help the elderly with professional medical services.
HAVING been involved in elderly care for a long time now, Dr Ejaz Ahmad Chaudry, CEO and director of operations of Noble Care Malaysia, has seen it all. He recalls a man who was working in Australia and who had left his aged father in one of Noble Care’s nursing homes. When his father became ill, Dr Ejaz phoned him to tell him about the situation. The man said he was too busy with work and left it to Dr Ejaz to care for his father.
Three days later, the father became gravely ill and had to be hospitalised. Still, the man told Dr Ejaz he was too busy and told the doctor to do what he could.
“Then his father passed away, and I called him again,” said Dr Ejaz. “He told me to give him my bank account number so that he could transfer some money for me to arrange for a funeral as he was too busy to do so.”
Shocking as it may be, this is today’s reality, where some people can be so caught up with their daily pursuits that they neglect their old parents completely. Possibly nothing is more painful than to live out one’s old age without loved ones by one’s side. Worse still is to be left in a nursing home without professional care.
Noble Care, a social entrepreneurship that aims to change the way old folk’s homes and nursing homes are run, has been around since 2010. It started with one “model centre” in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, and today has 10 more such centres, including two “VVIP retirement resorts” in Bukit Damansara and Old Klang Road. It provides care for old folk, those in need of medical attention and those with disabilities.
Noble Care is a wholly self-sustaining endeavour, as it channels the profits made from its VVIP retirement resorts to its charity homes. The non-profit homes are staffed by both paid employees and the occasional volunteers.
“We found a huge difference in elderly care here in Malaysia and in places such as the UK, US or Switzerland,” said Dr Ejaz. “Here in the traditional old folk’s homes, things are not very good. They are not very well-organised or well-planned. And they lack the professional touch. There should be professionalism.
“For example, when you want a suit, you would want a very good tailor. But in this case, when your father or mother is old, sometimes you just send them to the old folk’s home where there are no doctors or nurses. They only have maids. And this kind of work is not a maid’s job.
“We should not leave our parents in a state where only a maid is taking care of them. Every person who has reached the age of 70 or 80 needs professional care.”
In a Noble Care centre, the old folk get regular meals, exercise and activities, and most importantly, 24-hour service from medical and nursing professionals and volunteers. Centres such as the one in Rawang, Selangor, is also well-designed with a fish pond and a large garden with chickens and ducks.
They also get physiotherapy by qualified personnel, something Dr Ejaz said is essential for all elderly persons. Noble Care is unique as it has in-house doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists and dieticians.
“Sometimes we get referrals from the hospitals,” said Dr Ejaz, a geriatrician. “Some children just abandon their parents in the emergency room. Or sometimes some members of a community or a neighbour might see an old man dying alone in the house, and send them to the hospital, and they get referred here. Hospitals can’t take in all these people.”
Dr Ejaz has been involved in geriatrics and bedridden cases for the last 24 years and now devotes his life to Noble Care’s efforts. He laments not only the negligent behaviour of some people towards their parents, but also the underprivileged who cannot afford proper care for their elderly.
He cited a case where a woman wanted her mother to live out her final days in Noble Care centre – without further medical treatment – because she could no longer afford the recurring hospital bills.
“The ability to foot medical expenses is very important because this kind of care is long-term,” said Dr Ejaz, an advocate for elderly care planning.
“We tend to plan for everything – for marriage, buying a car and a house. But in our old age, we never plan. Suppose you retire when you’re 60 and you survive till 90, that’s 30 years in between. And during this period, you might be unproductive and totally dependent on others. What will happen then? The Government cannot support all the old folk. Imagine one old man occupying a bed in a government hospital. That would cost the government RM10,000 a month.”
Dr Ejaz believes that with proper planning, one can live out one’s golden years with honour and dignity, without having to depend on one’s children.
“Nowadays our society is starting to accept (the idea of sending parents to an old folk’s home),” said Dr Ejaz. “That’s why we are changing the concept. The children are too busy to care for their parents, and the parents also accept the reality, and are willing to go to a nursing home. As such, we need to design the facilities so that the old folk can spend their final years in comfort, with peace of mind, and with professional care.”
An old folk’s homes shouldn’t have 30 to 40 residents and only one or two maids to take care of them, said Dr Ejaz. “It should be luxurious, and for those who can afford it, it should be like a resort. Children should give back to their parents.”
He recalled a woman whose mother lived in a Noble Care centre for three years. She had serious respiratory and skin problems. The woman had spent about RM250,000 – her life savings – on her mother’s medical care and treatments. She was only a school teacher. She said that in the last 20 years, whatever she could save, she spent on her mother.
Dr Ejaz said although Noble Care cannot always depend on volunteers because the work at the centres is round the clock, it still needs a lot of help from good Samaritans.
“The elderly feel lonely,” he said. “There is no one to listen to them. We need volunteers to come and spend at least one or two hours with the old folk and chat with them about their lives and their experiences.
“The volunteers can also contribute whatever they are good at. If they are good at singing and performing, they can come and sing for them. If they are good at painting, they can teach the old folk how to paint.
“If you are an engineer, you can come and see how you can improve the living conditions. We need IT people who can design some apps for paralysed patients, so they can just do things with one click.”
When Noble Care first opened, the 20 beds in its centre were filled within six months. The plan is to develop 100 homes around the country by 2020, said Dr Ejaz. He added that there are 2.6 million elderly people in Malaysia now, and the number is expected to increase to 3.5 million in the next 20 to 30 years.
“We have to develop a minimum 2,000 special homes for these people,” said Dr Ejaz. “If we do not do this, the system will be clogged up. We have to be prepared. Every town with 500 houses needs a minimum two nursing homes or old folk’s homes for the future. This is inevitable.”
For more information, visit https://www.mynoblecare.com, or call 016-278 6993, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.