Elder Care

I’ve read an awful lot about how elder care can always be “arranged”, can always be “provided for”, and there is no need to be physically present. This is specific to India, btw.

I’m not sure how many of the writers have actually dealt with elder care. They seem to be assuming a whole lot of things about elder care, and it strikes me that their view is rather narrow.

True, when elders are physically fit, we need not be present all the time. In fact, most of the senior citizens I have known and seen actually prefer to stay independently.

However, the real challenge in elder care arises when the elders are not physically fit. The kinds of issues they can have are so wide-ranging that one shoe simply cannot fit all. The kind of care also needs to be tailored to the kind of problems they are facing.

In India, what facilities do we have for elder care? Correct me if I am wrong, but the answer is close to zero!

Old age homes, for all their noble intentions and sincere effort, are a far cry from being satisfactory. The kinds of problems they grapple with are not simple ones. I’m not even talking about the ones set up as money-making machines. I’ve seen at least three old age homes up close and personal while taking care of my uncle. They can just provide the basic framework. Personalized care comes rather low on the agenda, even for the good ones.

For example, in one of the old age homes, my uncle, who had almost lost his vision, was convinced that his mug had been taken away and replaced with another. It was his word against the old age home. This became a huge issue for him, so much so that he just upped and left. It might look like a trivial issue, but to him, it was a matter of his privacy and his property being threatened. Personalized care would have comforted him, reassured him that the mug had not been replaced, and ensured that he felt secure. Would this be possible in any old age home? I sincerely doubt it, though I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. There’s only so much they can do. So much of the caring is emotional, not just material, which they simply cannot provide.

What other option is left? An attender at home? Any idea how much of a pain it is to get an attender who is at least regular? And on top of that, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack to get the right kind of attender. I’ve experimented with a couple of home attenders and with nurses who come in daily. There’s no easy way about it. Even if you’re prepared to throw away a fortune to hire the right person, you might as well be searching for Cinderella with her lost shoe!

The only other option is doing it yourself. True, it frees you from the headaches of waiting for the attender to show up. But the time and effort you have to put in is not meagre. Your entire life changes; the center of your life is now the caregiving, and everything else is adjusted around that.

If you really don’t give two hoots about the elder in question, then sure, you can put down a bundle of cash, dump them in an old age home, and forget about the problem.

However, if your intention is to give the best possible elder care, then make no mistake about it. Whichever option you choose, be it an old age home or attenders or yourself, your physical presence and involvement is a given. It will take up a huge chunk of your life, whether you like it or not.

If you want to really find out what it’s like to take care of an elder, then I’d suggest you do some reading, such as this blog, which can really open your eyes to the many challenges of elder care.

At the end of the day, it is heartbreaking indeed that elders need so little during their sunset years, but providing that itself can be hugely draining.

I’ve heard many people say that just because the parents brought up the children, it doesn’t mean that the children have to look after them in their old age. Children have their own lives to lead.

While I appreciate the argument in this, and agree with it also to the extent that parents cannot and should not “expect” their children to look after them, I beg to differ.

My personal opinion is that there is nothing wrong with gratitude. It doesn’t make me a smaller person if I am grateful to my parents for bringing me up the way they did, sacrificing quite a bit of their lives so that I could grow into the person I am today. Yes, I do have my own life to lead, but my parents are also part of my life, aren’t they? To look after them the way they need to be looked after brings me great joy. Helping anyone gives me great joy, for that matter.

I sincerely wish there was a more educated and open outlook to discussing elder care, with more focus on solutions (I don’t have any myself!) rather than just the financial and why-we-need-not-do-it aspects from the young and the thriving.

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