Esha: Aged community experiences re-defined

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Esha Oberoi, founder of AfeaCare, tells Alys Francis there is a huge demand for personalised care services for the elderly in Australia

We’re all getting older, and thanks to medical advancements, living longer than ever. So it’s no surprise Australia is seeing rocketing demand for elderly care services.

The Indian Sun caught up with an award-winning entrepreneur who tapped into the market early, building what has become one of New South Wales’ top aged healthcare providers.

Esha Oberoi was inspired to found AfeaCare Services in 2008 when she was just 24 years old and working in a nursing home.

Seeing a need to, “redefine the experiences of the frail and aged community”, she built Afea to innovate Australia’s care industry, offering personalised home-care services catering to elderly people, those with disabilities, mental health requirements, respite and childcare.

To shake up the typical care model, Oberoi said she focused on “three critical elements — people, processes and systems”.

“To begin with we changed the way that our coordinators engage and collaborate with our care staff in the field to provide quality care to our clients,” she said. Purpose-built care service management software was developed to inject transparency and efficiency in business processes and systems, which Oberoi described as being: “Central to maintaining the independence and dignity of clients as we help them age in the comforts of their own homes.”

The design quickly paid off, with Afea becoming a leader in the state for healthcare service provision, with a compounded average growth rate of 49.5% per annum over the last five years, according to Oberoi – who was a finalist in the Telstra Young Business Women’s awards last year.

The future for aged care businesses and entrepreneurs in Australia looks bright, to say the least.

An ‘aging boom’ is seen on the horizon, with some 40 million aging people expected to put increased pressure on health services and aged care, according to Australia’s fourth Intergenerational Report released in March. The report predicted that the population would hit 39.7 million in 2055, with 40,000 people celebrating their 100th birthday that year. The number of Australians aged 65 and over is expected to more than double to 4 million.

“The biggest challenge the industry will face is to balance the expected growth in demand for care, as Australians age and leave the workforce, [with] the increased fiscal pressures on government funding and the shortage of skilled care staff,” Oberoi said.

She said Australia needed to, “prepare to cater for the growing demand” with government, care providers and the community working together to address the need and attract the right people to work in the care industry.

Demand for South Asian-origin carers will also likely increase as Australia’s multicultural communities grow older.

There is already a need for carers with cultural and language skills of this kind, according to Oberoi, who explained: “As we get older and are prone to conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is a natural inclination to revert to our native language and social settings.

“One of the preferences of clients when receiving care is to receive it from caregivers that understand their culture and speak the same language,” she said.

While opportunities for people wanting to start care businesses or get employed as carers are set to skyrocket, Oberoi noted that proper training was crucial.

“It is important that employers support care staff and nurses in on going development programs so they are better equipped to provide care for ageing individuals with high levels of care needs,” Oberoi said. “Due to the demanding nature of the work, engaging and promoting work life balance for employees is a key to retaining good quality care staff.”

“We look for employees that are passionate about the industry and how it promotes positive connections amongst people.

“Good care staff have a natural ability to connect with different people and are empathetic towards their unique circumstances,” she said.

With projections for the industry to boom, Oberoi said it was an “extremely exciting time” and she had ambitious growth plans for Afea over the next five years, wanting to expand operations across the Eastern seaboard.

“We feel that we have worked extensively on our culture and creating a strong foundation for growing our services,” she said.

“We are continuously reinvesting in creating innovative and efficient service delivery models to meet the growing needs of our elderly and vulnerable members of community,” she added.

“Our plans include retaining the focus on end client needs as primary to what we do everyday. We are currently investing heavily on learning and development of our care staff, embracing technology that enables efficiency in how we deliver care and lastly expanding our geographical reach through our office locations in Blacktown, Western Sydney, and Perth, Western Australia.”