I wrote this article a while back. It was published in the April issue of the NYA
newsletter in 1997.
After spending the weekend with my grandma I thought about what will happen to other members of my family when they are older and can’t look after themselves?
For that reason I’ve found this article, altered it a little and posted it in the hope that this exploration will support you and your loved ones in some way.
The ‘Indian’ elderly are traditionally looked after by the eldest son of the family and if there is no son, the eldest daughter would take on this role. Using homes for the elderly was unheard of.
The way it used to be was that the son or daughter-in-law would live with the son’s parents and care for them until they no longer needed it. So what’s happened? Why are there more and more ASIAN elderly people’s homes opening up?
- Are they meeting a demand?
- Are they actually creating a demand?
- Are they giving people some encouragement to dispose of these traditions and responsibilities because they don’t want them any more?
Let us address one issue at a time. Pretend it is you in this situation. You are married and have children. Your parents can’t live alone anymore and they need help with the things that we take for granted: walking, changing and perhaps eating and going to the bathroom. You work but your partner doesn’t. Whoever the non-working person is (no room for sexism here!), supports caring for the parents and your own children while you go to work.
You come home from work and want to relax but where possible, two people are needed to care for two adults who are not self-sufficient any more. Common sense right? Thus you have to help with taking the food to them, possibly feeding them, helping them get ready for bed etc.
Then you sit down and eat, talk to your family, relax a little, get ready for tomorrow and sleep. This is an everyday thing, which may mean that your freedom is limited.
Would you take them with you everywhere you went?
If you were going to, lets say, a bar & you know it wouldn’t be appropriate for hem to come with you, would you take them to someone else’s house whilst you are out? Of course, you’d need to pick them up at a reasonable hour as they will need rest. Also, they are being ‘looked after’ at someone else’s home so you can’t expect them to care for them for too long. Can you?
What about weekends? If you go shopping, they cannot trapse around with you as it may take a couple of hours.
A weekend away? A holiday?
You need some support too right? Some respite perhaps?
Is the rest of the family willing to help you?
To what extent will you ask them for help because you need it or just because looking after the parents today is inconvenient? This may seem harsh but it is argued that this is how we ‘youngsters’ think now.
What do you think?
It will affect your mood, how tired you are, how friendly you are etc. How much energy will you have left to make time for the rest of your family? What do you think? Can you handle it? Do you want to bother with this level of support OR do you value your freedom and effortless life more?
Going by the conversations that I have had or heard with various individuals, people don’t seem to want to marry into a family where they know they ‘re going to have to look after parents or others who are in need. This addresses the problem before you’re in the situation; (i.e. I sense a process of elimination when choosing potential partners).
What about those who are already married? What happens when the parents have reach the stage where they need help? If the couple can’t or wont look after them, what are the choices? If there aren’t any other siblings who can help the choices seem to be 1) put them in a home or 2) care for them.
So is there a case for more homes for the Asian elderly population?
Watch out for a different take re this issue of caring for the elderly. It’ll be published on 25th July 2010 🙂