My mother turned 79 on 31st March. The family gathered for simple dinner and for sometime she forgot her dizzy spells, her weak heart and all that the old age brings with it. After my father’s death 5 years back my brother decided to brings ma back to Delhi and since then they stay together ( He does not like to say she stays with him).
There is a person to take care of her and she is free to live her life as she desires. Ma travels, attends events, goes for movies, exhibitions and does all that her health permits. Even after all this sometimes she looses it and the feeling of dependency and loneliness creeps in, making us feel helpless.
She is well-connected to us through phone and we do visit her often. She is internet savvy so connects with old friends too. My brother, in spite of heavy work schedule in TOI, does his best to see her comfortable, healthy and most of all happy but how many old people living in the cities with their children get this?
I have already done a post on Being a daughter, old age and empty nest
Someone told me yesterday, ” hey you have a long life, you will live a hundred years. I was just thinking about you.”
I wondered ” how many would like to live a hundred year in a society where old people are made to feel redundant ??”
A recent story which my therapist narrated made me write this post.
Mr. Jaganath ( name changed) is a professor (retd) from University of Delhi . He is 97 years old. His wife is 88 years old and both of them are in frail health with old age complications . The couple stays in a posh flat in an upmarket colony and has five children. Four boys, three of them are in U.S.A. teaching in major universities and the fourth son in Delhi itself working on a high position in some company. The old couple stays with their widowed daughter(58 years) and grand-daughter. None of the sons were willing to keep the aging parents and rarely visit them.
The daughter who herself has sever health problems grudgingly looks after them and leaves no opportunity to humiliate and scold them. The only reason she is bearing with them , as per her, is the property in her father’s name. Every day is a struggle to survive for them. My therapist goes daily to help them and the stories she narrates are horrifying. Many a times she intervenes but is told to stay away from family matters.
Things turned worse a month back when the mother fell sick. Since then the old parents are not fed properly, mother complains of being beaten up at night for disturbing sleep. They have lost weight. Hardly any nutrition goes into their frail bodies and the diseases which were brought under control have started to take their grip on them once again.They stay in their room all the time and are never ever taken out to any functions or even to any park etc so they too can breath in fresh air.
On being questioned the daughter says, ” its time for them to leave the earth. isn’t it?”. ” I am stressed too, am unwell myself, it’s too much “, she complained. I am doing all I can, a maid is there for them 24 hours, I am paying for doctors and everything, giving them khan peena but they are not satisfied” , she retorted in anger.
Caregiver Stress was breaking her she said. Amazingly she wants her father to sign the papers for the flat and put it in her name. All the money, jewellery as already been given to her. She managed to get things done her way by forcing them.
” I am feeding them so it is my right. ” she defends.” I am growing old too. don’t have more strength than this to look after them”.
” Is it not her duty to look after them or if she can’t at least find a decent care home for them ? ”
“What care home? What will people say? They have little life to live why waste money ? was her reply.
The parents stared blankly at her and then looked at the therapist with eyes that told the story of their pain in bold letters.
The son when contacted refused to take charge due to the pressure from his wife who had earlier thrown the father in law out because he wetted his pajama accidently on way to the loo in the night. He was called a dog who pisses anywhere,
The vacant hurt on their weathered faces, the fear of unknown in their eyes and the tears that well up all the time tell a sad and tragic tale of neglect .
The daughter was advised to put them in some care home but the social image is the most important thing for her. No one knows what goes on behind the four walls but sending them away in this condition will open many debates, also the property and , money etc will not be passed on to her.
The old couple quietly waits for death to knock on their doors to get rid of every day humiliation, pain, sickness and trauma.
I always wonder what exactly can be done in this situation. Even thought of the role of welfare associations of the colonies which can mark the houses where elderly people stay and check their state of well-being but then the other members make sure that they keep their mouth shut and speak only good of the family otherwise face the consequences.
These old people who once lived a life of content and raised their children, educated them and gave them wings now sit huddled in dark , smelly rooms, deprived of even a decent meal and basic health care.
I told my therapist to take some action against the daughter or do something to help the poor parents and she did try but failed. Even a police report would worsen the matters in their case she said with such pain in her voice. It troubled me. We are still thinking how to change the situation. The woman is well to do so the monitory condition is not the reason.
In a country where familial ties are held in high regards more and more cases of extremely closeted and complex phenomenon of Elder Abuse are coming into notice.
In a country where we preserve our heritage properties, cherish the old relics and heirlooms, the living heritage is being so severely neglected and abused. Economic insecurity, loss of physical ability to work and care for one’s self, falling health, physical and psychological isolation , often the social and religious taboos play havoc on these elderly people. Sometimes there is a fear of losing the spouse and low self-esteem also makes them vulnerable.
Sensitization of the younger generation in this regard is of utmost importance and it works too but what about educated people like the one above who knowingly neglect and push their ailing parents towards death?
Many a times these elderly people also suffer from self neglect due to many reasons like malnutrition, dementia, depression, over medication and illnesses but those who do not fall in this category are often pushed towards it by the care givers.
The question is why?
Why taking care of the parents who can’t look after themselves, who once took care of you, become this generation’s latest major agonizing life crises ?
Are we under the duel pressure of being” sandwich generation” raising young children and caring for old parents?
Two decades ago, caring for the elderly was hardly an issue. The joint family was a harmonious secure haven for both the young and the old so the question arises
Was the system of joint family better than this new age nuclear family system?
Or have we just become more stressed and less tolerant?
Many NGO’s working for the elderly like the Help Age India claim that the reports of abuses and neglect have gone up in recent times. Most of them say that children turn abusive once the family property has been signed over. Then the ” use” of aging parents is over and hence the anger, abuse and neglect.
They have to wait endlessly for the meals, medication and such basic needs. A complaint creates disharmony and that is one reason many old people prefer to stay quite.
There is a parent maintenance act but how many are aware of it or avail its benefits. The fact that we should need a maintenance act for our own parents is such a shame but it does help those who are neglected and abused.
While the youth enjoys the benefits of the economic boom the elder generation is completely out of picture.
Sometimes I feel that Ichcha mrityu or
euthanasia should be allowed.
At least it will end the trauma of ” To be or not to ” in the elder generation.
There are estimated 90 million old people in India.
Their grief remains unresolved and life… it goes on .
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