TODAY -

Turning sunset years into gold

Shobha Shukla *



As soon as I set foot inside Suansawan Care Resort for the elderly in northern Thailand, I was immediately struck by its spacious, sylvan and tranquil surroundings. Set in Maerim valley, 20 km away from the Lanna province of Chiang Mai, this retirement facility is owned and managed by 66 years old British businessman Peter Brown and his Thai wife. Opened in 2013, it won the Most Outstanding Care Resort of the world award in 2016. In an exclusive and candid interview with CNS (Citizen News Service), Peter narrated the incident that motivated him to open this care home for the elderly.

His mother, Joyce Brown, had been living in a nursing home in London for 5 years, where the care kept diminishing to the point when there were just 4 carers for 40 people. Once when Peter went to meet her, he found her very sick-almost dying-in her room, without anyone of the care facility staff knowing about it. When a visibly upset Peter questioned them, they said that every morning they would call her and ask her how she was, and she would say she was fine. So they believed her, without ever checking if she was telling the truth or was just being polite.

Even though her meals were being returned untouched for the past 5 days, no one seemed to be bothered. The lame excuse given to Peter was that the person who delivered the meals was not a carer, only a delivery person. "So basically there was no culture of care in that care home. Unfortunately what people need is care, and what care needs is carers. So if you do not have enough carers you cannot give care, if you do not give care you cannot improve people's lives."

Peter then looked for other care homes for his mother but could not find anything better. At that time, he was already running a 4 star tourist resort on this property since 2007. So in 2013 he and his wife converted a part of that tourist resort into a care facility for the elderly (including those with dementia and Alzheimer) and brought his mother (now 94 years old) to live here with the other guests.

Joyce is now one of the residents with dementia at the facility. Unlike other places, they are not kept in locked wards but in a 'memory care' zone where they have the freedom to move around. Peter ensures that there is a carer for a guest with dementia, just a few metres away, 24 hours a day. When the guest wants to go for a walking the resort's garden, the carer goes alongside. Guests go shopping once a week - that means one carer goes with one guest. If there are not enough carers, one cannot give that sort of personalised service.

The other residents live in independent villas, each of which is fully alarmed to the central care station. Basic health checks, like measuring blood pressure, are done daily, with carers taking residents for periodical medical appointments to the city. Meal times are flexible. Says Peter: "They can eat when they want, what they want, in their room or outside. We believe that even in their old age people should be able to enjoy a quality life, and retain their independent freedom of choice, within physical and medical limitations. Guests here are not treated like a child, but like normal adult human beings".

The facility currently houses 25 residents between ages 63 and 97 years: 70% of them being females. Most of them come from the USA, and the rest are from UK, Canada, Australia, France and Hong Kong. 12 of the guests are in some stage of dementia. Guests stay here on a one year renewable retirement visa which Peter helps to organise for them. The all-inclusive monthly cost runs from Thai Baht 47,000, depending upon the level of care required and the room-type chosen. But, as Peter says, it is not only about costs, it is also about care levels - while it is much cheaper here than in the US or UK, care level is also very high here.

"When I started this facility, neither did I have any experience of running such an enterprise, nor could I find any existing model that I could copy and replicate. So, I thought what would my mother like, and what would she not like. My mother had said to me - do not ever put me in a nursing home. People go to a nursing home to die miserably. Let me die happily in my own bed. I also felt that when I am old and infirm I would not want to live in boarding school-like environment where others dictate and force their will upon me. I would not like to be a child again."

The biggest USP of this care home is the high staff-to-resident ratio. There are 29 Thai carers, including two degree-qualified nurses, for these 25 residents. Add to this, Peter's philosophy regarding elderly-care, and you have a perfect recipe to add cheer to the twilight years.

"Providing sufficient 'care' whilst maintaining individual dignity is our key philosophy. My carers know that maintaining the dignity and personal freedom of the guests is very important. Our guests live their own lives as much as possible - they choose when to eat, what to eat, where to eat, when to go to sleep, what activities to do, what not to do, etc. In most nursing home type care places around the world the guests virtually live in a prison like atmosphere."

People with dementia are often aggressive and depressed, perhaps due to frustration for being treated like children. "So here we try to take away that frustration from them, give them a dignified life, give them choices. I have guests in stage-6 of Alzheimer's disease. But they still go shopping, they still make their own decisions - whether to buy something or not, whether to go out and have lunch or sit in a coffee shop."

"People with dementia are not stupid - they just suffer from memory problems," says Peter. "One has to learn how to adapt to the actions of a dementia patient. They might seem to act like a child, but should not be treated like a child. Adequate provision of care levels coupled with a healthy lifestyle and diet can improve their condition tremendously."

High blood pressure and diabetes are two major health problems of the guests, which, in most cases, are controlled through proper diet and physical exercise- an important part of the guests' routine here. But to make elderly people exercise is not easy. Recalls Peter, "We had a guest in her 80's who came here from the USA in stage 6 of Alzheimer's. She had not walked for 7 months, and had not talked for 2 months.

Within 2 months of her stay here she could walk 200 metres. Once she started walking, she started talking. It just took 4 days' efforts, sans any medication, to make her take the 1st step with the help of two carers. But then there was no looking back for her. She made continuous progress - walking to the bathroom, then till the front door, then past the terrace. And now she enjoys walking and talking when she wants to. Her son says she is stubborn, but I say that she is free willed. When you reach 75, you do have the right to be free willed - you have the right to exercise your choice on what you want or do not want to do."

Peter has many other success stories to share: "I have been pleasantly surprised to see what one can achieve by helping people with care. One gentleman, who came from USA, was on 24 hour care for one whole year in this place-one carer with him throughout day. But last year he moved to an independent living unit. He still needs care but he lives independently. And it is not because his health has got any better, but because he has learnt to live with his disease and also because we respect his decisions. I have also dared to comply with his request to let him manage his shopping expenses, with astounding success. It is not about right or wrong decisions; it is about giving one the freedom to make choices. So elderly people can do much more than what others think."

Peter still runs his tourist-resort alongside, but its size is diminishing and the care home size is increasing. He had earlier thought of closing the resort when he broke even in December 2016. But then he decided against it because the resort is very popular with the care home guests. It creates a different ambience for them and they feel happy seeing and meeting younger people and children from different countries. It gives them the feel that they are not segregated.

"We do have a huge place here, but I do not want to increase the number of guests beyond a certain point. If the number is too big, care will not be that personalised. As of now I know the minute by minute medical problem of each of my guests. It is the care and the philosophy within the care that is important."

Peter candidly admits that he is not running this care home for altruistic reasons, but because it gives him pleasure to see people benefit from what he does. "I am passionate about looking after the elderly and I believe in people. Elderly people can do a lot more if we just give them a little bit of support."

Between 2015 and 2030, the number of older persons worldwide is set to increase by 56% - from 901 million to more than 1.4 billion - thus making care for the elderly is a huge problem which must not be neglected anymore. Although there is a growing market for elderly care homes, but it may not be prudent to make it a business. A profit driven model cannot run a good caring facility that focuses to improve the quality of life of senior citizens, rightly believes Peter.

The elderly do need care, but they also want to live their own lives and do not want to be a burden. People's independence, and their freedom of choices are important and must be respected, irrespective of their age. Only then can countries fulfill their pledge to step into a sustainable future leaving no one behind.

Watch video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pkScsaGClM


* Shobha Shukla wrote this article for e-pao.net
Shobha Shukla is the Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and has consistently written on health and gender justice, ageing and care of the elderly related issues. Follow her on Twitter @Shobha1Shukla or visit www.citizen-news.org
This article was webcasted on February 11 , 2018.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #11
  • Violence in Manipur 2023-2024 : Timeline
  • SoO pact towards disintegration of Manipur
  • Logical curriculum is the need of the hour
  • Prodigal Ambani shaadi
  • Marks Vs Skills in today's world
  • Taking ST demand to the Assembly
  • Good intention, bad action
  • My daily prayer to Modi Bhagwan
  • Voting & Development : A new strategy
  • More infection-prevention options but...
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Sekmaijin
  • Job Openings at SAS Skills, Imphal
  • The Power of Poppy - 40 :: Poem
  • Manipur Kanba Khongchat #3 : Gallery
  • Compassion, empathy can restore peace
  • Totomsana Nongshaba to be inaugurated
  • Putting people first means following Gandhi
  • Assessment of cage culture on Maphou
  • Hotspots of trouble in North East India
  • Seeking a date with PM Modi
  • Puja Khedkar case: Opening the can of worm
  • Re-Interpretation of Subika Art of Manipur
  • International Day of Yoga #2 : Gallery
  • India refugee policy: Rohingyas Vs Chin-Kuki
  • Haats (Weekly Markets) of Guwahati
  • Shillong gears up to host Durand Cup
  • Lip care during Monsoon
  • Gaikhangam in his elements, again
  • The death of a Chiru man
  • Anti-Repression Day @ MDU #1 : Gallery
  • You are wrong, but it's okay
  • Growing call for 100-100-100 to end AIDS
  • Pelvis as the body's emotional junk drawer!
  • World Youth Skills Day & our environment
  • Insanity at its worst
  • 55 kms per day on Imphal-Jiri stretch
  • Justice Kotiswar: First among equals
  • Kang Chingba @Govindajee #2 : Gallery
  • Introducing Thang-Ta in school curriculum
  • N Kotiswar - Judge Supreme Court of India
  • Meitei Professors' Invention Patent [Upd]
  • Boeing crisis hits India, air fares to shoot up
  • Scholarship: Rs 4 crore for civil service
  • Out on the streets against extortions
  • Mandate against party-hopping
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #10
  • Bamboo Bio-toilets at Champu Kangpok
  • Decarbonisation for human survival
  • Book Release to promote physical education
  • "ST status for Meetei" @ Langmeidong
  • Condemns the Killing of CRPF Jawan
  • Rahul Ji, let us talk solution
  • Targeting Central security personnel
  • The monster outgrowing its creator
  • Aftermath of Imphal Flooding #2 : Gallery
  • World Plastic Surgery Day 2024
  • A new front of 'power politics' in Nagaland
  • 2nd Meghalaya Pineapple Fest at Delhi
  • Super 20 batch for UPSC 2025 announced
  • Why is PM not meeting Manipur leaders ?
  • Justice to displaced people
  • Imphal Art College Exhibition #1 : Gallery
  • Scholarship for Johnstone Hr Sec given
  • Will #PutPeopleFirst drive HIV response?
  • Open Letter to Amit Shah, Home Minister
  • The Power of Poppy - 39 :: Poem
  • World Population Day 2024
  • Beating of the Retreat #3 : Gallery
  • Liar's lair :: Poem
  • The Richest Man in Imphal
  • Gamcha, the Assamese Scarf
  • Meghalaya Govt launches OTT platform
  • Comprehensive Coverage in NE Telecom
  • Battered and tattered roads
  • Let there be transparency
  • Kanglei Thokpa @ Sagol Kangjei : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2024 #3: Gallery
  • Historic Premiere: 'Chilli Chicken' at Manipur
  • Effective Unified Command for Resolution
  • Music & Quiz: Drug Abuse amongst youth
  • Visionless and headless DMU
  • When is the right time & situation for PM visit
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #37: Download
  • Inspirations from Scientists of Manipur: Book
  • Manipur crisis: Treat the disease, not symptom
  • 133rd Durand Cup Trophies Flags Off
  • NEET droppers vs freshers
  • Death : Only future to look at ?
  • Mental health of displaced people
  • Aftermath of Imphal Flooding #1 : Gallery
  • When was the last time we smiled ?
  • Appeal to Stop Unbearable Monetary Demand
  • 'Oppenheimer' links with Supreme Science
  • 'Preventing from holding a press conference'
  • Travel tips during Monsoon
  • Look at it via ground reality
  • Making the 'Balak Buddhi' wiser
  • Kang Chingba @Govindajee #1 : Gallery
  • Release Ebo Mili & Stop large dams in ArP
  • Rainforests are the lungs of Earth
  • Education suffering from political interference
  • Inflated bill main vote plank, law dont cut graft
  • From the Lok Sabha to Manipur
  • Third visit of Rahul
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #9
  • International Day of Yoga #1 : Gallery
  • Lord Jagannatha's processional chariot fest
  • World Zoonoses Day 2024
  • PM 'bola' in Parliament
  • Acknowledging the stand of UNC
  • Embracing tree plantation as a new trend
  • 17th N Tombi Equestrian C'ships #2 : Gallery
  • The spirit & the creed of the Olympics
  • Kang Chingba (Rath Yatra) : Book
  • 'Economic blockade: Rumors baseless'
  • The Power of Poppy - 38 :: Poem
  • Balancing children's academic performance
  • Imphal flooded (again) [Jul 3] #2 : Gallery
  • Covid, Ngari, Yu and Loktak
  • Rural people struggling with network problem
  • English certificate courses for BA student
  • 6th July is International Day of Cooperatives
  • Clogging the waterways with plastics
  • Diverting public attention from core issues
  • Manipur Kanba Khongchat #2 : Gallery
  • Gateway of Assam
  • Integrating GIS & EWS for flood management
  • The Dopamine overdose
  • Free workshop on civil service exams
  • Bucket of cold water after a hot shower
  • Breaking the silence
  • Imphal flooded (again) [Jul 3] #1 : Gallery
  • Embracing 'Sharra - Kashar-ot'
  • Drug abuse & illicit trafficking in Manipur
  • Nudity being served to increase followers
  • Record high temperature
  • Bangladesh FM Hasan Mahmud's Riyadh visit
  • Indigenous call for NRC
  • Come home to the electorates
  • Meiteis must unite for survival
  • Flood advisories issued
  • State & District Control Rooms
  • Green Hydrogen for a clean environment
  • Need for an Emergency
  • Monsoons beauty
  • Calling out the indifference of Delhi
  • Questioning the silence with a roar
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #8
  • Problem & prospect of floriculture in Manipur
  • WomenLeaders India Fellowship 2024-25
  • Naga Peace Talks and Narasimha Rao
  • Arunachal Minister visits Oil Palm @Godavari
  • Clear cut stand from the Nagas
  • Crisis resolution in 100-day plan ?
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #2 : Gallery
  • Manipur: A battleground of imperial geopolitics
  • Wangkhem Suresh @ Higher Defence Course
  • Shoppers Stop's 1st Store in Dimapur
  • Stop razing rail station, divert 25k Cr to Signal
  • Has Imphal completely lost the plot ?
  • Time to take responsibility
  • Tarpon chaklen katpa @ Andro #3 : Gallery
  • July Calendar for Year 2024 : Tools
  • Letter to Prime Minister of India
  • International Day of Parliamentarism
  • Skill Development Course at Lumshnong
  • The Power of Poppy - 37 :: Poem
  • Radio E-pao: Manipuri Film OST (130+ song)
  • Manipur Kanba Khongchat #1 : Gallery
  • Multiple Openings @ JCRE Solutions
  • Our mass addiction to predicting future
  • Bonsai - A play with another aspect : Review
  • Timely diagnosis to stop misuse of medicines
  • Impactful tool- Instagram marketing strategy
  • Essence of the June 28 rally
  • Birds of the same feather
  • Scientist of Manipur: Satyendra Thoudam
  • Education and the fate of Manipur
  • Centre not mind talking to Kitovi or Alezo
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Nambol
  • Why Bangladesh urge military diplomacy
  • MoU : Assam Don Bosco Univ with Cambridge
  • Understanding beyond the coup
  • Donning the role of LoP
  • Rally @ Jiribam [June 26] : Gallery
  • Umananda Island- World smallest river island
  • Breaking the impasse
  • Fantasies of a sinister childhood
  • Program: developing women entrepreneurship
  • Microlearning is impacting talent acquisition
  • Looking for the way forward
  • The message
  • Moirangthem Robi - Mr Universe India 2022
  • Parthenium Menace in Indo-Myanmar : Book
  • Respect & recognise domestic worker
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Hiyanglam
  • One test not for India
  • Include tomatoes in your skincare routine
  • Raising ST call a notch or two higher
  • United in grief, but...
  • Panthoibi Phijol Hongba @Mandalay : Gallery
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #1 : Gallery
  • Ema Panthoibi Phijol Hongba at Mandalay
  • Ibudhou Cheng Hongba #1 : Gallery
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #3 : Gallery
  • Aid to relief camps @ Jiribam : Gallery
  • Bike Rally - Sekmai to Kangla : Gallery
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #2 : Gallery
  • Scientist of Manipur: Laishram Shanta
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #3 : Gallery
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #1 : Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #2 : Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #1 : Gallery
  • HSLC (Class X) 2024 : Full Result
  • HSLC 2024 : Important Info & Grading System
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Statistical Abstract
  • HSLC 2024 : Comparative Statement
  • Scientist of Manipur: Jayanta Manoharmayum
  • Scientist of Manipur: Amom Ruhikanta
  • Preserving Thang-Ta :: Rare Photos
  • Malemnganbi Laishram : Science Topper
  • Thokchom Sheityajit : Arts Topper
  • Aiena Naorem : Commerce Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Science Topper
  • HSE 2024 : Subject Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : District Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : Candidates with Highest Marks
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Science Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Arts Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Commerce Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Arts Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Commerce Topper
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing : Full Book
  • A ferocious hailstorm @Imphal : Gallery
  • Scientists of Manipur : Ngangkham Nimai
  • GHOST of PEACE :: Download Booklet
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD