Caring for the elderly

Looking after the old and infirm is a situation that is physically and emotionally challenging. Of course, I’m not the only one who is going through this situation because taking care of the infirm and elderly is a part of all our lives.

But last year, I was faced with a dilemma: what really defines love and care.

Does enlisting the help of professionals amount to callousness and indifference?

Around forty years ago, my mum and I were walking to the temple to thank the Lord on the occasion of my 21st birthday .

But the Lord it seemed had other plans. Before we could get anywhere near the temple, a young girl who was learning to drive, lost control of the wheel and drove over my mum.

Even now after all these years, I can hear the crunch of her bones and her screams as the car drove for a good twenty feet with my mother rolling under it before it came to a halt. Surprisingly, my mother dragged herself from under the car and told me to get her to the hospital and also make sure that the girl was booked for rash and negligent driving. 

To cut a long story short, my mum and I drove to the hospital and she got onto the stretcher which took her to the Emergency Room. Thereafter, her gumption deserted her and she allowed herself to be attended to by the doctor of her choosing.

My mum stayed in the hospital for three months while her 13 broken bones mended. And she went for Physiotherapy for three months after that. Luckily, since then she’s been right as rain.

In the Naval hospital where my mom was admitted, visitors were not encouraged. However, being doctor’s family, the Staff indulged us and allowed my brother and me to hang around and keep my mother company.

The Officers’ Families’ Ward was a lovely old stone building overlooking the sea. Both my brother and I were studying for our University exams and soon the large verandah became our favourite haunt where our friends and those of our family would come to see my mum. For two hours every evening, we would gather the chairs around her and our animated whispers and soft chitter-chatter broke the otherwise deathly silence of the hospital.

My mum loved her hospital stay and the good care she received made her heal well. Not for a day did she feel unloved and abandoned. 

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This, and my own hospital stays, through one minor surgery and two pregnancies, has convinced me that professional care is best for the infirm.  Especially if you can afford it. Admittedly, it becomes a fiddle to make regular visits to the hospital and even run around when the doctors require you to do so, but I feel that the patient is far more comfortable when looked after by those who are trained to do so.

Sharing my thoughts on a situation where old ‘children’  (like me) are torn between emotion and reality, I expressed my opinion that enlisting professional caregivers to help in the care of the old and the infirm is neither callous nor indifferent but, on the contrary, essential. Especially when you yourself are finding it physically impossible to do so.

I was amazed at the comments I got and particularly comforted by Esha, Modern Gypsy Tamara, and Alana.

In fact, I am reproducing below Tamara’s comment.

Even for those who are physically able to care for aging parents, it’s an exhausting task! For those who can’t physically look after aging parents or family members: if you need help, reach out and ask for it!

Aging in place can sometimes be better accomplished at home with the help of nurses or aides coming in to help. Other situations call for placing an person in a special facility. Each situation is unique, as the caregiver’s abilities to manage running a home, going to work at a job for income, raising children, the caregiver’s own health issues, etc. are all factors which need to be considered.

Regardless of the solution, if efforts are made to have as frequent as possible visits, (to help the aging person feel loved and not forgotten) will help tremendously!

We all sense when situations are difficult, though many people’s expectations aren’t in harmony with the caregiver’s reality! If a caregiver isn’t physically or mentally up for the long-term task, or needs to shift gears from being an at-home caregiver to having a family member “placed”, other people’s expectations can be the hardest to deal with.

We can still love each other, from close by or from afar!

Spending quality time is very important! Reading a person’s favorite books to them… bringing offerings of their favorite treats to tempt flagging appetites… children’s drawings (even scribbles) warm a heart… an electric fan… a warm yet light blanket or two… comfy slide-in slippers and robe… recording messages from family members and leaving an easy-to-play device to listen to them… arranging for fun outings from time to time… there’s so many ways to show love!

Keeping a sense of family alive even when a person needs professional care is of course more difficult to do, but taking care of a person’s spirit becomes vitally important!

Bravo to all the wonderful caregivers and Bravo to people who recognize when a situation is over their heads and who ask for help!

Peace to all,


Did this resonate with you as it did with me?

Image for Unishta

∗It is common Indian practice to visit a place of worship to mark important occasions like milestone birthdays .






A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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20 Responses

  1. Caregivers is a must in today’s times and the role played to ensure the patient gets not only care but emotional stability and love. Rash driving should be dealt more severely and in today’s times, it’s getting worse.

  2. Yes at times it becomes impossible to give your 100% when you yourself feeling low. Professional help is a great comfort and few visits now and then will boost the recovery of loved one.

    Liked your conveying style 🙂

    MeenalSonal from AuraOfThoughts
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  3. Shilpa Garg says:

    Yes, it does and agree with it completely. Last year, my mom was unwell and the illness left her pretty weak to do anything. While, my parents’ house help managed the chores, food was a problem. So, we three sisters decided to cook and send tiffins from our respective homes or cook at mom’s place. We did it for a week and we realized that it was exhausting and derailed our entire work at our own homes and office. We decided to hire a cook for a few days. It was met with great resistance not only from our parents but also from our ‘well-wishers’. It was so annoying and frustrating. Did cooking with our own hands showed that we loved our parents more? And that a hired cook meant we were indifferent and callous?
    Similarly a friend decided that a home for elderly was best for her mom with mental illness considering that she had twin toddlers and work as well. I think that was the best thing to do, not only for the mother for she received the best professional care but also for my friend who could devote time to her family as well as her mother without being drained out all the time and without any resentment.
    Seek help if you cant manage it on your own.

  4. Hugs! Wishing you the strength to cope up with the challenging situation Sunita.
    As for hiring the services of the professional care takers, I am on same page with you. The families are growing nuclear and thus availability of manpower is big challenge. Enrolling the services of the professional care givers provides for the sanity of others in the family of the patient. It gives enough room for the family members to go about their routine and also to spend quality time with the patient. This in turn is a boon in disguise to the patient and to the family members as well. I can say this very confidently, as I had gone through similar situation few years back when my MIL had taken to bed.
    Keep yourself strong…and whatever little that I know of you, you are a woman of steel, Sunita!

  5. Such a profound post my dear and I am on the same track as you are but unfortunately no one understands our view point especially in an Indian household. I have been misunderstood and even silently blamed from found guilty of running away from my duties when I had suggested the same.

  6. Ah the hospital has to be INHS Asvini :)))) It is indeed a lovely one, having had both my babies born there. And gettting back to agin, its a complex stage of life, when apart from your frailing physical health, mentally, somewhere life drains them out. The pressure and strain on the caregiver becomes immense. But one needs to be strong and get going. cause the wheels of life often reverse.
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  7. Dahlia says:

    A difficult time Sunita and no easy solutions or answers! So long as your reasons are right and in the best interests of all concerned I dont think you should bother with anybody else says. You know better, actually what is best for you – so go for it.

  8. Damyanti says:

    I absolutely agree with Tamara. And if needed I’ll seek professional help for the elderly people in my life.
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  9. Akshata says:

    AToZ has been keeping me very busy and I haven’t read your posts , this is something that resonated with me so well. Caring for someone especially if long term can be very draining. Not just physically but mentally too. Deciding to keep them in professional care where one can afford is not at all callousness in fact it’s the best you are doing for them and you. Visit them frequently and create memorable moments than frustration being in one place and feeling the brunt
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  10. Kaddu says:

    OMG! That bit about your mom’s accident was really terrifying! I have to say… your mum showed incredible strength! Hats off to her!

    As for caring about the elderly, I agree. If professionals can be afforded, then there is nothing wrong with it. I don’t get this narrow-mindedness and judgmental attitude of most Indians.

    My old father lives me. I am currently unmarried. But if I ever do find someone, or if I ever decide to relocate to some place he’s not comfortable at, I would have to settle him in an old age home. So yeah, I know I’ll have to put up with all kinds of accusatory statements from people. But the fact remains that he should be comfortable at the end of the day. And feel loved too. Which is definitely possible long distance also. I mean parents also send their kids away for schooling, right? And then the older kids go out to work independently.

    Indians are anyway crazy for trying to interfere in everyone’s lives all the time!

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    P.S. – Your link on “torn between emotion and reality” is not working. I wanted to read that too.
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    • Unishta says:

      I agree with you . For us , other people’s business is our business ! It is hard to deal with old parents and I’m sure you’ll do the right thing for all of you when the time comes !

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