x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Home helpers a lifeline for housebound

Service also relieves stress on family members.

DUBAI // Seven people crowded into Sayed Al Hashemi's room, trying to convince him to get out of bed for a health assessment.

For 45 minutes he lay there, confused and refusing to budge.

Then the 87-year-old sprang out of bed and everyone in the room, including his daughter, Maryam, and four medical professionals, applauded him.

A physiotherapist, Iftikhar Shalla, took the elderly man by the hand and guided him to his chair in the living room, where a geriatrician and a nurse conducted a full examination.

"It's a full house," said an excited Mr Al Hashemi. "What's the occasion? Can you tell me how many years I have left?"

"A very long time," replied his daughter. "Why are you asking this, baba? You're still a young man."

As he recited poetry about his fondness for coffee and sang love songs to his wife, who was sitting beside him, it was hard to believe that Mr Al Hashemi had a worry in the world.

But numerous medical complications afflict this vibrant Emirati, preventing him from leaving his home in Al Rashidiya and sharing his cheerful spirit with others.

Dementia, bronchitis and hypertension are just a few of the challenges that Mr Al Hashemi lives with every day. This makes him a perfect candidate for the elderly home care service launched by Dubai Health Authority in January.

Ms Al Hashemi said the service has eased the stress involved in giving her father the specialised care he needs.

"I used to take him to the community centre for the elderly," she said. "We'd have to jump around from doctor to doctor.

"It used to be so difficult and he'd get very tired in the process. This is much more comfortable for both of us."

The visits also provide an opportunity her father, a retired tradesman, to engage with members of the community.

"He cannot leave home, so he feels so happy when he sees all these people around him," said Ms Al Hashemi. "It makes him feel cherished and loved."

She added that if the medical team included an eye doctor and a dentist, the service would be perfect. "Like this he'd truly never have to leave the house for a doctor's appointment again," she said.

The service is the ideal approach in a community where taking care of one's own is so highly valued, Ms Al Hashemi said.

But she believes that families should not leave all the work to the carers.

"It's truly a miracle how life is a cycle. We must be patient with our parents as they age," she said.

"They showed us extreme patience and care when we were young, even in our most unattractive states.

"We must also reciprocate the same unconditional love."