Old age homes in Kerala struggle as Covid disrupts the normal

As the elderly in old age homes in Kerala find it difficult to adjust to the new normal brought about by Covid-19, doctors stress on the need to focus on mental health | Illustration - Eunice Dhivya

Three years back, 60-year-old Ratheesh Kumar was picked up from a street by policemen, following a complaint that he was a public nuisance due to his constant drunk and disorderly behaviour.

On interrogation, Ratheesh told the police that he did have a family but no one cared for him and vice-versa. At the Government Old Age Home in Kannur, he was seemingly content. All he ever fought for was the occasional day-out. He would visit relatives, ask for money, spend it on alcohol and other needs, and return when penniless.

In March 2020, all that stopped. The Covid-19 pandemic defined the term ‘lockdown’ in its severest form and created a new normal. Inside these homes, it was a clampdown because the inmates, 60 years and above, became a ‘high-risk category’ overnight.

Ratheesh couldn’t deal with it. No more outings meant no loitering, and definitely no alcohol. He became wild, aggressive and violent. He refused to wear a mask. He had to be controlled physically and when pacified, he would stay calm for a few moments, then suddenly run towards the women’s ward, exhibiting himself and making lewd comments.

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