As I was growing up, I had always missed one major factor of any child’s growth. That was the presence of grandparents into my life. I would often hear my parents talk about my grandparents in a very fond manner reminiscing about their life with them. I am currently in my mid sixties and I have experienced many different roles so far that being of a son, a brother, a husband, a father in law. I have been a mentor, an academician, a psychologist and a family therapist. During all these roles, l have noticed that the roles of elderly in the family have always been that of providing love affection and a sense of stability to the family. Yet of these roles I have had positive experiences and some negatives, and I have been grateful of the experiences that life had taught me in all these years. But again in the major years of my growth I could simply reminisce about my parents to my children as my parents had long been dead before my wife and my kids came into my world.
But the story I am discussing here is a little disturbing for many of us, though to some it may seem absolutely justified way of dealing with ageing elders of the family.
Santosh (name changed) contacted us for family counseling sessions after she had been physically beaten by her son after an argument and heated discussion on some family matters. As an old lady and mother of 30 years old married son (whom she has supported in all his endeavors of life) Santosh could hardly believe it that her son, her only dear son had beaten her so mercilessly. Her only fault being that she loved her son Shubham (name changed).She had simply advised him to not to create embarrassing moments for the family by doing things not expected of a person of his maturity.
Similar is the story of Rajpal (name changed), who has been married to Binita (name changed).To his parents distress (who have so far been living with their son in their own house), Rajpal’s wife Binita does not want the ageing parents to live with them. She finds it very disturbing and difficult to establish a communication with her in laws she has been the lonely bird during all her pre marriage years. She had told, Rajpal that she would get married to him only on the condition that she would not be sharing her husband and their marital space with any one, be it his family or her family. She wants the parents-in- laws to be moved out of the house to someplace else .Rajpal should find another place for setting up their household as she needs complete privacy.
The youngsters in any society are today finding it difficult to play the role of a caregiver. They find it very stressful to take care of their elder members of their family. The stress of caring for parents and grandparents ultimately falls on the society and other welfare organizations. But not many such organizations exist in our country.
The country though is claiming to be the source of largest young population but the population of the elders and soon to be an elder too is proportionately very large.
In many cases it is seen the youngsters are willing to take up the responsibility of looking after their parents and other elders in the family, but their own commitment to their careers and jobs definitely make it difficult to do so. The youngsters in modern times want to be mobile not only within the country but they want to be globally competitive and hence the youngsters move away from home to charter new career paths for themselves.
The elders would never like to leave the places they have spent their lifetime in, at their old age .They feel comfortable living in their own cities and the homes in whichever they have spent the good part of their lives. With the children moving away, the empty nest syndrome hits every parent at this age coupled with the prospects of loss of occupations for the seniors. I can feel the same stress in many of my elderly clients as they talk about how they are dealing with their lives in their empty nests. I know how they find it difficult to cope up with their daily activities and failing health on account of age catching up with them.
Mr. Shukla 70 years (name changed) had shifted to his son’s home, after Mrs. Shukla had passed away a year ago. Though he had a huge comfortable house with all facilities available, the family still preferred that Mr. Shukla moved to his son’s home in the nearby town. Mr. Shukla has ever since been suffering from anxiety and depression. He feels completely lost and rootless, in spite of being with his son and two grandkids.” I had a routine when she was there living with me .I would still have managed being alone in my own home where I have a kitchen garden my wife had so lovingly developed. I have a good collection of plants and trees in my backyard .But I find that loneliness creeps on me even after having done all that. I just do not have anyone to talk to now either in my home or in my son’s home. My son and his wife do take care of my needs but they have to lead their own lives and take care of their infant daughter. Most of my friends have gone to God’s home. Some of them have just shifted to their ward’s place. If only we could have a system that would take care of our short term and long term care needs, things would have been much brighter”.
The seniors would require someone to take care of their full time needs that can last for years. Such needs as cannot just be fulfilled by part time caretakers or by technology alone.
Not many commercial , government or non governmental agencies exist for providing such caregivers .There are some old age homes and few geriatric care commercial companies operating but these too do not serve the actual care giving purpose .Such agencies operate more on profit making terms for themselves and are very rarely subjected to any government audit for their services standards. We need to have more trained psychologists and family therapists well familiar with the geriatric care needs and the mindset to reach out to the needy.
We need to educate people on better self care in their old age and at the same time we need to have more social and community based institutional support for our growing population of old people.
The youngsters need to be trained as better caregivers for their elders and other senior members of their society. On the social front these young men and women should understand that the act of caregiving can be very rewarding. It enables them to build up their relationships to the generation that has just gone by and understand the nuances and cultural norms of the society and community. The love and affection that these seniors have always showered on their wards need to be returned by the family youngsters by taking care of the elders just when they need them in the far end of their lives.
We at Family Therapy India do hereby commit ourselves to take care of their needs with an empathetic human approach .Please reach us at http://www.familytherapyindia.com if you have any such caregiving needs for your elders in your family.
–Ramneek Kapoor – Family Therapist, Psychologist Counselor and Science of Living Expert.