Homes for the Aged

  Ema Souza-Colaço 

Much of my thoughts on this topic are based on my work with the elderly and also based on the experience our family has had with and since the setting up of The Home for the Aged in Nachinola, Bardez; an experience made possibly by the generous donation of a large house by the benevolent Martyris family of Poona and the financial support of the extended de Souza family of Nachinola and their friends. 

My primary position on Care of the Elderly is that it is best handled by the family itself and that too within the individual's normal habitat. It is less traumatic and much less disruptive that way. It is also the most appropriate way. 

The parents looked after the children when young; it is now the turn of the children to look after the parents when old. That, I believe, is the normal cycle of life. However, as we all have come to realize, life is not always perfect. Many young children remain in this world without their parents to look after them. They are the orphans. There are many parents too, who soldier on without their children to look after them. They are the ' mature orphans' of this world. 

Goa has another set of parents - ones whose children HAVE HAD to leave home in order to earn a living for themselves, with something little left to maintain their lonely parents back home. These parents get older and weaker with time and loneliness. Many are just unable to make it on their own. When an elderly individual cannot look after oneself and the family is unable to either, for whatever reason, it then becomes the responsibility of the community to pick up the yoke and move ahead. We just cannot neglect these helpless, hapless, lonely elderly people of Goa. They have paid their dues during their youth; it is time for the community to return the favour. That is why I believe that Goa has a particular need of Homes for the Aged.

Are there specific issues relating to the organization of Homes for the Aged ? Sure !

On the face of it, the whole process of setting up Homes for the Aged, looks like a very easy one.

# 1: There are numerous elderly individuals in Goa who might benefit from such homes.  # 2: There are scores of  'locked-up and unused' ancestral mansions. # 3: There may also be  a number of individuals who promise to support one or another project in their village or neighbourhood.

It all looks very clear cut and simple.

The unfortunate truth :  it is neither that clear cut nor simple.

Let us examine some of the issues involved in the development of  "Homes".

A . The locked-up mansions are not necessarily available for use as " Homes ".

There is an unusual desire in Goa to acquire, encroach, usurp, grab and attach property which does not belong to the person . Squatting, encroachment and inappropriate communidade land conversions are examples.

The first steps towards identifying a suitable house for a "Home" are as follows:

1. Determine the need of such a home in a particular village or area by conducting a well designed "needs assessment" .Needs Assessment will  help evaluate the data collected and determine the priorities for service development. Data should be collected from existing "Homes", Department of Statistics, the Ministry of Health and the elderly members of the community. Needs Assessment will provide form and structure to the task of gathering information. This will  help decide  the level of service  needed and the feasibility of such a service.

Is it a "Home" we need in this particular community or "an adult day care centre"?

2. Once the data is analyzed, a business plan should be developed and a marketing approach adopted. "How do we find the funds for Capital development and How do we ensure ongoing  funding for daily maintenance" ? The plan designed should take into account the need today as well as allow for future growth.

3. Once the 'needs assessment' indicates that a "Home" is what is needed determine if the available houses are either suitable or easily modifiable for use as a "Home".

4. Identify the house whose design will best suit the need.

5. Identify if the location of the house will best suit the purpose of the "Home".

6. Obtain a clear title to the house decided upon.

The common law of inheritance in Goa necessitates that a ' clear and unchallenged'  title be available for the said house or property. This involves significant legwork and a title search.

B. The politics of power play and corruption.

There is significant corruption in Goa. This corruption extends even to the village panchayat level. Quite apart from this is the level of power play displayed by the politicians  and other power-brokers who place all kinds of conditions or "terms to support or oppose" a particular project. Significant determination and skill is necessary to overcome the power play and corruption.

continued on page  2

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