It was less than two months ago that a 75-year-old-woman was found dead in her house and more shocking was the fact that the incident came to light only after 45 days. Though she belonged to an affluent family in Mavelikkara, and her son a doctor, she stayed alone with nobody to take care of her. This is not a one in a million incident reported in the state. There are thousands of individuals out there who are left to loneliness during their old age. At an age when meticulous care, loving, and support are needed the most, often the greying population are left alone to tackle their issues alone. Going by the words of experts, the ‘emptiness syndrome’ has infiltrated into old peoples life and as a result in the state mental health problems have risen tremendously over the years.
And as we are observing ‘World Mental Health Day’ today, World Psychiatric Organisation has focussed on the ‘Mental health in older adults’ as this year’s theme. “It is an explicit fact that most ageing people do not stay with their wards. The children of ageing parents in most cases would be settled abroad or in other states. Hence most of their issues goes unnoticed by their children,” says Dr C J John, Consultant Psychiatrist, Medical Trust Hospital, Ernakulam. With better health care services offered in the state, the life expectancy has shifted from 68 to 78 years. As the longevity increases, the problems related with ageing also increases. Besides the dependency streak during old age is a practice that is tagged to our cultures from centuries and hence most of them confine into their own world which is definitely not a healthy sign, he adds. “In West, the ageing population likes to be self independent by engaging themselves in various activities whereas here, they themselves make dependent on others thinking that it is the norm. Hence unknowingly, they make themselves exposed to depression and frustration which naturally leads to problems such as dementia,” he points out.
Dr John also points out that following a faulty lifestyle will lead to vascular dementia. “Alcoholism, lack of exercise and improper diet adds to the already existing problems of the greying population,” he says.
Dr Anoop Wincent, President, Psychiatric Society says, “Even the lack of awareness related with the intake of medicines causes mental health problems. Psychiatry is a stream where extensive research is being undertaken. But the misconception that taking medicines will lead to severe side effects, and thereby avoiding to take medicines regularly caused more damage than good.”
Doctors said that there should be a collective responsibility to prevent the lives of elderly from falling into a miserable pit. “Individually, they should try to engage in positive and self help activities. Despite shrinking into their own cocoon, they should stay connected to people. Besides, the care givers attitude also should change. The state should come forward to exhort the social responsibility towards the elderly. This could lessen the gravity of their issues to a considerable extend,” they add.