Thursday, July 7, 2011

Comforting The Elderly

If they do not have any source of income (like pension, old age allowances) give them some money on a regular basis, so that they can spend for their day-to-day small needs. Even if the allowance is small, it doesn’t matter because it will mean a lot to them and make them feel more independent.

Last month I went to Briddhashram at Pasupatinath and talked with some octogenarians abandoned by their family. A significant number of elderly people told me that their sons and daughter-in-laws showed them the way to the elderly home just because they had been ‘uncomfortable’ to their children. At the most care and love demanding age, those old folks are spending very lonely, boring and nostalgic days in an old age home. All the beautiful moments shared with their loved ones have been lost.

On the other hand there is a person like Dil Shobha Shrestha who has provided shelter for 28 elderly women in her own residence in Soaltee Mode, Rabi Bhawan. She has been running the old age home for single handedly for about 12 years now. She does everything in her capacity to make her boarders’ life easy and simple. Her daily tasks include feeding, cleaning and clothing them, looking after their basic needs, doctor’s visits etc. Most of the women were rescued by Shrestha herself. They had been in pathetic condition before and have found sanctuary at her ‘Aama ko Ghar’. She is providing shelter and a peaceful life to all those elderly women despite having no blood relationship with them at all.

Are we doing enough?

After talking with Dil Shobha Shrestha, only one question arises in my mind that, are we doing enough for our elderly family members?

They nurtured us when we were kids. They took care of each and every need of ours and made sure that we were always happy and smiling. They helped us evolve. They taught us to differentiate between right and wrong. But, often when they grow old, we forget to care for them. Here, I am talking about the elderly who are the foundations of any family. When they grow old, our roles are reversed as it is time for us to care for them and make them feel happy and needed.

According to psychotherapist Nirakar Man Shrestha, MD, it is very hard for the elderly to accept the feeling that they are no more bread earners of the family. The feeling of guilt and burden slowly drags them towards the darkness of depression. They start feeling lonely and discarded and unlike the youth and the children, they pass through immense psychological changes. For example, they find their children have grown up enough to take decisions on their own. Once living together in a joint family, suddenly the two of them are left alone at home; they have property but no dear ones to look after them. The lack of family, social and financial support is the major cause for anxiety in elderly people. Moreover, dementia is common among the elderly, due to this they forget things more often. They might feel lost and useless. Here emerges our role to make them feel that they are still part of your life. Their advice is necessary in each family matter.

Listed alongside are some things we might be able to implement in our day to day lives to make our elderly loved ones feel gifted.

As we know, each of us has to pass through this age someday, sooner or later, why should we not start the practice of making this phase of life beautiful for everyone? If we start it from now, our children will learn from us. Taking care of your elderly today is preparing a safe elderly passage for yourself. It is actually a cycle of life – ‘you get as good as you give.’

Six must do’s
  • Treat your elderly with respect and dignity. If he/she is capable, allow them to make decisions about their life. Be diplomatic while talking to them. Don’t hurt them with your words. Do not impose things/rules on them.
  • Invest in their health. Be proactive, taking them for regular medical exams. Never wait for them to ask you. Book periodic appointments in advance with the doctor for a whole year.
  • If they do not have any source of income (like pension, old age allowances) give them some money on a regular basis, so that they can spend for their day to day small needs. Even if the allowance is small, it doesn’t matter because it will mean a lot to them and make them feel more independent.
  • If they are not staying with you, call or visit them on a regular basis. Do not forget to wish them on their birthdays and anniversaries. If possible, organize family gatherings and present them on these occasions.
  • Always encourage them, praise them for their desire to live and make them feel needed and that they are still an invaluable part of your life.
  • Never complain, or make your elderly loved ones feel what you are doing for them is a burden. Make them feel that you enjoy doing things for them.

    Six should do’s
  • Get your family involved with your elderly ones. Allow your children to visit with them. Keep them involved in your children’s life and education. Ask for their help and give them suitable chores in your home.
  • Teach your children to behave with the elderly in a respectful and polite way. The courteous behavior of your children makes them overjoyed.
  • While going out, do not leave them alone at home. If they are not capable of cooking and cleaning, hire a maid who will provide company and help them with their household chores.
  • The elderly are not liabilities but assets. We can take advantage of the experience and knowledge they have earned in their lifetime (parera janeko kura). This makes them feel that they are contributing to family and society.
  • Volunteer to do special things for them. Eg: take them shopping or out to dinner or request their help in gardening flowers or vegetables.
  • Take your elderly loved one to visit other elderly relatives occasionally. They feel good to see and meet people of the same generation.

    Six can do’s
  • Listen to what they have to say. This helps you to find out their state of mind. It is said that a man becomes a child two times in his lifetime, first when he is young and second when he is old. So, treat the elderly like you treat your child; be as tolerant and forgiving of small faults.
  • Keep them updated about current events. Read to them from newspapers. Let them watch their interesting shows on television. This makes them feel that they are still a part of the world.
  • Discover a favorite hobby of the elderly and help them fulfill the hobby. Encourage them to cultivate a hobby if they do not have any, like cooking, painting, gardening, playing indoor games, knitting, reading, writing, etc.
  • Attend holy places with them and advice them to get involved in the satsang or holy company. Arrange pilgrimage trips for them.
  • Encourage the elderly to participate in social communities organized for senior citizens. This keeps their body and mind active.
  • Record special moments shared with your elderly loved ones in a camera, tape recorder or just jot notes down. They might have stories of their times, along with cherished memories, which we may find very interesting.

    Originally published in Healthy Life

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