CHENNAI: We presently live in a world where it is becoming almost impossible for elders to stay with their children in their final stages of life. In future, it might become so, that to know how a complete family lived together, we might have to take reference from movies or books. It is uncomfortable to think of such a scenario, but unfortunately the way the world goes this might become unavoidable.
There are various reasons for this unwelcome change. With increase in education and technological advancement, job opportunities have become so varied and widespread that many are left with no option than to leave their home town or home country for survival. Also the pressure to earn more has hit society more than before due to stiff competition and economic instability.
Also, present society is finding the idea of joint family a practical difficulty, mostly because of difference in psychological makeup of the present and previous generation. And more than before, individuals have started giving importance to their personal freedom, as everyone prefers to think and act independently.
To argue whether this is right or wrong is a different topic. But surely we need to address the problems arising out of such a scenario.
When we analyse, we easily find that the majority of difficulties of this situation are faced by the elderly. This is more so if they fall sick. It is really disheartening to think about old age people suffering this way, especially at a time when they need more attention and care. If we honestly consider the strenuous life they had already undergone in bringing up the family and in giving education and carrier to their children, we will understand that they deserve a much better life.
Elderly people living alone face a lot of challenges, which society in general is not aware of. Many would commonly relate their problems to physical illnesses alone, but the fact is that their psychological and emotional traumas are much more agonising to them. As most of the diseases related to old age are not completely curable, it becomes important that at least their emotional needs are attended to. This will also have a positive effect on their healing. But, not all elders are fortunate enough to receive such a care in the present atmosphere. Many elders are forced to forego their health, just because they are unable to take care of these things without the support of others.
Even when they don’t have any major illness, many elders have the basic difficulty of getting up from bed and moving about inside their living place. They live constantly with the fear of falling due to imbalance and instability, which is part of old age or due to a disease condition. Many times falling and sustaining a fracture is the reason behind a crippled life.
The psychological illnesses arising in many of the elders are mostly due to loneliness than their physical problems. Most of the elders, who live alone, become depressed over time, because of three reasons. One is that, even at this age they have the big responsibility of taking care of the household as well as themselves. The other is that they lack the companionship of their children and grandchildren, which they would naturally long for at this stage of life. The third is the fear and worry regarding their future, as to who will attend to them in case of an emergency.
We all know that any venture is considered a success only when it ends well. So, this rule should apply more to the biggest venture called life. There is no sense in a life where we struggle for a better or rather the best life, but end it with struggle and pain. Let us all be conscious of this social trap and give much more concern to the problems of old age, understand the challenges they face and make them end their life in a happy note. This is the way to prove that we are really civilized.
(Dr V Janakan, Head – Medical Services, Healthabove60)