Emotional support for the elderly is as important as medical aid

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The world thinks that Indians really respect and love the elderly. With the concept of joint families and children living with their parents well after adulthood, it can be understood how the notion of this attachment to the elderly was conceived. Some really do everything in their power to take care of the elderly like they once took care of their children, however, in a large number of cases, it is all a charade. Children do not always have the same kind of regard for their parents as most expect. They do not understand the debt of gratitude that they owe their parents for bringing them into this world, nurturing and raising them with care.

An elderly couple from Dharwad, Karnataka, that was making a visit to a Smile on Wheels mobile hospital shared:

“Every morning after offering our morning prayers, we move out of our home. We pass the entire day in the village temple reciting hymns. Each time we pray, we cry to God ‘Why do our children have to suffer because of us?’ We have one son. We live with him. Our daughter-in-law behaves very harshly with us and she always uses bad words directed at us. Our son earns a very small income and finds it difficult to afford to feed everybody in the family. We are afraid to ask for rice from own daughter-in-law. She shouts at us in front of our son. Our son says nothing and turns his head away. When we were young, we worked morning to evening to keep our only child out of hunger. I used to carry him on my shoulders and take him around the village. When he was sick, we did not sleep the entire night and tried to comfort him with everything we had! These days, I can’t see properly. My wife goes out to find work in other people’s houses these days. We feel helpless during this last stage of our lives. But we do not want to be a burden on our children’s family anymore.”

This is just one example of the psychological torture these people undergo at such a delicate age. It is often said that old age is like a second childhood. This does not only entail the physical care that is required, but also the social attention and care for their mental well-being. They are kept alive with the help of modern medicine, but are made to feel guilty for living in their own houses and eating meals provided by their own blood. This guilt and abuse that they face takes a toll on their mental health as well.

Most of the elderly are widowed and live an extremely lonely existence. Even the ones who do not face any abuse and are seemingly well looked after are left alone at home while their children work.  This isolation gnaws away at them. They are no longer fit to go out for work and often suffer from age related diseases such as dementia, which makes them incapable of making their way about; doing routine tasks without any aid is impossible. Yet, they long for company and attention, but this being denied to them causes them to fall into a deeper state of depression.

Placebo has scientific backing. Furthermore, mental well-being is deeply linked with physical well being. This means that emotional heartache can literally take a life away. The poor state of mind that plagues most elderly people causes their physical health to deteriorate as well. This affects those who belong to the working classes and are starved of not only attention and love, but also basic needs, to an even greater extent.

Just medical attention is not enough to take care of our elderly. We need to make them feel loved and cared for. Their emotional needs are just as vital to life as their physical and medical ones. We need to pay special attention to their social requirements in order to keep them happy, and thus, healthy.

To know more about Smile Foundation’s Program which help in  aiding the elderly and senior citizens across the country please log in the link description below.

http://www.smilefoundationindia.org/smile_on_wheels.html

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Author

Malika Singh

Intern in the communication team at Smile Foundation, Student:M.A. English at Jesus and Mary College

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