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