In the past when joint family system was in force, the elders/aged did not have a problem as there was everyone around to take care of them. Families used to treat the old people as family assets and look for their blessings always. Since recent times, many old people are necessitated to live alone as their sons and daughters are settled abroad. Direct communication becomes impossible, though communication through phone is available. But otherwise, the old people who become prone to certain diseases like dementia and mental depression are forced to suffer from loneliness which is more killing than the death.
Rithuraj of Mumbai was living in US while his aged mother was residing at Mumbai all alone. After nearly a year’s silence, Rithuraj came to Mumbai to see his old mother, Asha Shakani. After breaking open the door , he could see his mother’s skeleton only with a letter of confession that she had committed suicide and no one was responsible for her death. It was a great tragedy.
The above incident is not a strange one. Similar incident took place in Devakottai, Sivagangai district. The odour of the decayed body alerted the neighbours and a grand old lady’s body was found..
What is the reason for this status?
Mainly after liberal globalization, the employment opportunities with monetary benefits have grown manifold. As a result, those who have their property in their villages, leave their parents in the villages under the care of their relatives and neighbours. But whereas, those who are living in cities like Chennai, Madurai and Trichy, are forced to leave their parents in an apartment. However posh it may be, this apartment culture in most places appears like caged zoos with little contact with neighbours and relatives.
Dr.Swathik Sankarallingam, psychiatrist,views that it is the individuals’ desire and plan of action to leave their parents in apartment and go abroad for better career prospects. In the process, some people fail to do it with due care and caution; they leave them in a haphazard situation and being old and lonely, the old people become prone to mental depression, dementia etc. They develop a sense of fear of falling while walking and hence avoid walking itself.
They will even forget to take the right medicines at the right time. Sometimes they will take the medicines but forget to take their meals. Many such abnormal conditions disturb their security of life during their old age.
Being connected with their parents is a primary responsibility of their sons and daughters wherever they are. They can organize regular contacts through their relatives and friends. They should also make it a habit to spend their festival holidays with their parents in their place.
Dr.Swathik further states that all emergency contact numbers should be written in a diary and handed over to the aged parents. They must be as friendly as possible with their neighbours and friends so that they would extend necessary care when needed. In the case of apartment, necessary information can be given to the secretary of the association for immediate contact during emergencies.
Dr.Natarajan, the famous geriatrics specialist highlights the importance of ensuring proper accommodation including medical access for the aged parents. He further says that there are doctors available for home visit which can be arranged periodically. When they are in our country, they can spend their maximum time with their parents so that they will enjoy and experience a sense of security and happiness.
What is our responsibility?
Most ideal is wherever we go, we must take our parents with us so that they will be in the comfort zone. Else, we must ensure that we stay in touch with them constantly through some source. The sad irony is that our parents would have spent each and every minute with us when we were children but when we grow up and when they become old, hardly do we stay with them. This trend should not be encouraged at any cost.
(This article written in Tamil by Era. Senthilkumar has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)