Khin Maung Myint
ON the 15th of December, 2015, I had an opportunity to visit and learn first-hand, how a day care center for the aged is being run. The visit was made possible by an acquaintance of mine who is enjoying the services of that center. He mentioned about the center during a conversation and urged me to seek the services of that center, as I am in the seventy ninth year of my life and is living alone on myself, without any helper or companion, which made me eligible to get admitted.
I thank him for his advice, but I have no intention to enter the day care center as I am still able to take care of myself and still in a healthy state of mind and body, I am not yet in need of such help at present and do not want to deprive other needy persons. However, I may unavoidably need assistance one day, so I was curious to learn about that day care center. Also, I have an idea to write an article about that center so as to make the public aware of how much that center is contributing to the society.
I had heard about the existence of that center before, but I have no idea of how effective and efficient are the services it is providing to the elderly people. So this opportunity afforded me a chance to learn first-hand from the administrator, the services they are providing. From the discussions with the administrator and from the brochures detailing the activities and other informations given to me, I came to know many interesting points.
The center is under the charge of the Department of Social Welfare, one of the departments under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. It is a non-residental care center: meaning there is no provision for overnight stays. It provides the services totally free of charge to the needy elderly, an undertaking, which is almost rare in other countries in the world. Even the developed countries like the United States and Australia and other wealthy Asian and European countries charge some amount of fees, which are deducted from the elderly persons’ pensions that are customarily granted to the senior citizens in those countries. Their governments only subsidize when an individual’s pension is short of the total cost of the services rendered. So our day care center is a very unique one, which is an indicator of the generosity of the government. Of course there are donors but the government is the main provider of the essential funds.
The center is located at No.64, Kabaye Pagoda Road, Mayangon Township ( Near Chawdwingon Junction), on a very spacious plot of land. It is housed in a considerably large building. There is a spacious and tidy worshipping place with an image of the Buddha on the altar, where the elderly can worship and meditate in a peaceful enviroment. A physical exercise room where light physical exercises and yoga training sessions are carried out is quite spacious and clean. Two separate air conditioned dormitories, one for the males and the other for the females with beds for taking naps during the day are also quite comfortable looking. As provisions for recreations, there is also a library, computers with access to Internet are at the disposal of the elderly persons to use free of charge, an art room where painting enthusiasts can pursue their hobby is also provided and a saloon where hair cuts, hair shampooing and manicures are available is also provided. A music room complete with television set and karaoke and a games room, where the elderly can play caron-board, chess, bingo etc, is also there.
In respect to the health care, there is a dental clinic to provide oral health and medical examination room to check the vital signs and provide treatments for minor ailments. Physiotherapy is provided for those who need it. Personal hygiene is also looked after by the care-giver staffs. Traditional medicine and massages are also provided as necessary. For major ailments, referrals are made to other appropriate hospitals and/or clinics.
Judging from the above care services and facilities, it is quite evident that the elderly are well provided to make their stay there pleasant, happy and welcoming to keep them willing to come back. In the waning years of their lives, such services and loving cares would definitely make them stress and depression free and diminish the loneliness and dejections that the elderly often feel in their old age. This is the main objectives of almost every day care centers I had studied on the Internet. So I give credit to the administrator and the staff for providing superb services, with the limited resources they have, which I must say is not inferior to those in most countries. Above all, the polite manners, compassion and the hospitality of the care-givers are great assets for the center, which would benefit the elderly very much.
At present, as there are some limitations in funds, facilities and trained medical staff, certain services such as: care for the disabled, seriously sick persons and those suffering from chronic diseases cannot be provided. Hopefully, the situations may improve and eventually the center will become a fully dependable place for the elderly in the near future. Those situations are also the ultimate requirements that the staff must be hoping for, to make their work more efficient and effective. Even now, I think there is not much more to be desired, as the services covered every aspects to make the stay at the center very pleasant and desirable.
The points discussed so far are mostly related to the physical care, so I would like to divert the attention to the mental care. The individual, or, group counsellings that are dramatically helpful in nurturing strong mental conditions are also provided as necessary. Socializing and interacting with different age groups, occasionally, are also required to break the feeling of monotony, the feeling of being neglected and aid in fighting loneliness. Thus the center arranged the elders to meet the pre-school children and also the youths for them to share experiences and knowledge with the new and up-coming generations. The center encourages establishing social networks among the elderly, and has also made arrangements to meet and socialize with other elderly from the homes for the aged. Also occasional visits or excursions to places of interests provided are beneficial to their mental health. There are religious and cultural activities and ceremonies on the auspicious days. All these are good contributors to the mental well-being of the elderly persons from psychological aspect.
A total of 184 elderly persons have registered at the center since it was inaugurated on the 20th November, 2013. Today, about seventy elderly persons on the average came to the center every day. Their day starts at 9 AM and ends at 4 Pm. The day begins with a light exercise. Then breakfast is served. They are served three meals: breakfast, lunch and tiffin in a clean and decent mess. I learned that the center allots one thousand five hundred Kyats per head per day for the meals. On the day I went there, I learned that there was a donor for their meals for that day. Such donations are welcome and they would significantly ease the burden on the budget of the center. There are also other expenses, which I will not go into detail, but I am sure they would be very large in amount. I also learned that donations of cash and kind are also accepted. I would like to solicit for donations, of my own free will, on their behalf. Prospective donors, who are interested can contact the center’s administrative office at the above address or by calling phone numbers: 95-1-657914 and 95-1-657013 (Fax), during office hours, except on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning who are eligible for admission. A person must be of age seventy and above; must possess a minimum considerable health to manage the basic personal needs on one’s own; must have a home to go back to in the evenings. Priority would be given to the most needy in considering for admission.
In conclusion, I would like to explain briefly what the day care centers for the elderly in other countries generally provide, so that the readers would appreciate how well and efficiently our center is running. Generally, the day care centers provide health, nutrition, social and daily living needs for the elderly persons in professionally staffed, group environs. Most day cares provide social care as well as medical care. Some served as rehabilitation centers for physically disabled and some give care to mentally deteriorated elderly persons suffering from alzheimer or dementia. At present, although our daycare center is providing social care to the fullest extent within their capacity and the medical care is still in need of improvements due to the shortage of skilled and trained staffs in the medical field, the work they are doing is really impressive and admirable, which they should be proud of. I am sure that, both the staff and the elderly alike, would be looking forward to the day when their day care center would be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the others around the world.