By Dr N K Vijayan Karippal
Oct 10: Two days of international importance fall in the month of October, such as, October 1 is the day for ‘Older Persons’ and October 10 is ‘World Mental Health Day’. Especially during the Covid period elderly people in and around us are facing lot of physical, psychological and emotional problems. Today when we observe the Mental Health day, it would be appropriate to think and discuss how to deal our elderly people effectively and make them happy and make ourselves happy and contented so that the quality of life and the peace of mind in our families can be enhanced.
Have you ever noticed this wonderful quote by Milton Green Blatt about our life span - “First we are children to our parents, then parents to our children, then parents to our parents, then children to our children”.
I don’t think that there can be a better sentence to explain how a child is born and at the end of the life span winds up his/her life “like a child”. Let us see how we can become good parents to our own parents, because eventually and inevitably we will become “children to our children”, where by there will be no prick of conscience. Our parents are those who sacrificed everything for us – their likes, dislikes, comfort, energy, enjoyment, resources and what not? When they were healthy and wealthy we liked their presence and presents, but during their old age, when they are confined to their own rooms, were there are lot of limitations, with regards to movement, speech, decision making etc, if we don’t have enough time to sit and chat with them, how painful it will be for them - can you imagine?
Usually most of you might have searched for tips, talks, books and even training sessions for better parenting of your children. Isn’t it so? It’s quite natural. Whereas, how many of you ever searched for tips and talks or best practices regarding how to parent your parents? Needless to say that there will be umpteen number of google searches for “good old age homes”. How many of us are constantly thinking about how best we can extend our care and consideration to them in our own homes? Elderly people in our society are facing lot of physical and psychological issues partially due to aging process and partially due to the actions of family members. What happens is, during old age, their physical and mental capacities along with other resources will be decreasing and their needs and dependence will be increasing. This causes much stress in them. How can we along with our children make them comfortable and help them overcome the inevitable challenges of ageing and anxiety about dying and the death? In every 10 older people 03 of them are suffering from depression or anxiety or other mental disorders apart from some of the chronic physical illness such as arthritis, kidney diseases, heart diseases, blood pressure piles, urinary problems, cancer etc.
The physical health has an impact on mental health and vice versa. Just think about the neurological and psychological issues faced by some of the elderly people in our society. Loss of memory, diseases such as, Dementia or Amnesia or Alzheimer's and loneliness, distress, disappointment, anxiety, severe depression etc. I am sure you will be shocked to know that Lakhs of senior citizens in our country are facing some types of abuses from their own children or relatives. In general, what type of abuses they face? Physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse. I feel it is the collective responsibility of family members and the society to ensure a safe, secure and dignified life for each older person in our society.
Taking care of elderly people doesn’t mean that looking after your own parents. Let it be your friend’s parents, relatives, neighbours etc. During pandemic, you may not go and meet them, but try to make it a point to call one elderly person you know, at least once in a week. I have framed a mnemonic out of seven most important tips viz “ELDERLY” to deal your parents or any elderly in an effective manner as listed below
1. E. Empathetic Care & Concern
Don’t you feel that when you get in to their shoes you will be able to understand their needs properly? Then please try to extend maximum care, because it is ‘now or never’.
2. L. Love them Unconditionally & Listen them Patiently
Listen them fully. To be heard is their burning need. When you are ready to love them without any conditions, without an ‘If’, you can listen them patiently.
3. D. Deal them with Dignity Disagreements & Differences
Till their oldage they had been ordering commanding and implementing their wish and will, - right? Naturally they may disagree, differ with you many things – You may be right, but let them feel that they are also right so I suggest you to be bit flexible in your approach.
4. E. Every Day is Vital
Please do not postpone their needs & wishes. Why? For them each day is vital because some of them are not quite sure about tomorrow. Communicate with them clearly – every day, every hour, clear their doubts and worries. Call them and speak them every day if they are not with you.
5. R. Respect & Accept
For some people, once they stop working, they may miss respect from the society, but give your respect. As they get older, they may lose self-respect and self-esteem. Your acceptance will make a big difference in them. Help them to retain their self-love.
6. L. Laughter - the Best Medicine
For you & them, there will be stressors. When you are taking things seriously, you will be angry – instead take things lightly and try to laugh. Also cut jokes and make them laugh.
7. Y. You too
You too will become older one day. Remember please! Do not have a chance to repent later about your past dealings with your own parents.
During this mental health day, we will take a wow that our attitude and dealings with any elderly person would be highly empathetic and psychological, because it is not part of your benevolence, but they deserve it or rather it is their right.
Dr N K Vijayan Karippal is the principal of Expert Pre University College, Valachil, and consultant educational psychologist.