Having the elderly at home is like raising a child all over again, they say. As a caregiver to a wonderful mother-in-law who is now 90 years of age, I wonder if it’s really true. Child rearing is child’s play compared to monitoring the advanced years! Trust me, looking after old people is far more difficult. They are as dependent, but not as yielding. And they can be so stubborn! So what makes it worth it? The fact that their wrinkles have stories to tell, and they deserve as much investment of caring as does a child. I look at my husband and think that the least I can do is make her advanced years as comfortable as possible.
My old lady suffers from short term memory loss, which causes her to forget that she has had her meals, or that she has met me a minute back. She often cannot recognize people and has to be given the same information again and again and again. Beyond that, she is in good health with perfect blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar parameters. She takes her medicines after breakfast and dinner regularly for general health and is very careful about holding on to a support while walking.
She has a huge zest for her meals and cannot do without her portions of fish, so I make sure she is served what she enjoys. She does not like bland, light food and though the doctor does advise less animal protein, I make sure she has fish for lunch. It’s something her system is used to, and she takes to it well. There are times when she loses control and passes urine or stool in bed, so I do keep an oil cloth under her sheet. But that only happens as an exception. She does not need an adult diaper except when she goes on a medical visit.
"When you're living with somebody who won't listen to you, the trick is to offer bait that arouses her interest! For instance, if I want her to brush her teeth, I make her get off the bed by pretending that there is a meal waiting at the dining table after she has brushed her teeth. It's a fabrication but the end justifies the means!"
There is a 24-hour attendant for her who looks after her personal hygiene routine and supervises her well being. She hates walking and prefers to lie down or sit on the bed with a back rest. No amount of persuasion can get her to walk a bit. And I get somebody from Dr. Lals Path Lab to get her tests done every two months. She hates it, but it has to be done.
I hope she stays well till her last days and experiences sunshine in her silver years. Because when it comes to the elderly, it’s the past you are investing in, not the future.
By Moonmoon Dhar
Caregiver and Communication Specialist
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And then crept in dementia….
At first, we had no clue. Her naggings increased, she started forgetting things - even the crucial ones like going to the toilet. She accused us of not giving her breakfast having had it moments back. Then came a time when she was not able to recognize my wife and me. It was a difficult time for us as interaction with her became almost impossible.
Generally, we tend to pay more attention to the preparations leading up to the surgery but end up overlooking the need for planning for post-surgical recovery at home. If preparations are made in advance, Caregivers can avoid the challenges that crop up later.
So why do we change in how we respond to them? Why can’t we accept that someone we love has a mental disease?
Because we believe it reflects on us? As SRK says in Dear Zindagi, “We go to a doctor when we have a fever, so why do we struggle to come to terms with mental illness?”