They dedicated all their lives for their children, providing them the best of education and lifestyle they could. And now when they need their children the most, they have been left to take care of themselves, on their own. “I have not been able to sleep properly due to the pain in my left arm”, said a 60 year old Shanti Devi. When asked about her family, she said she had two sons and both of them have moved to the city. They come home sometimes and bring me a few things. She said, “I am happy for them”, smiling and wiping off her tears.
This is just one of the many heart touching stories we came across during the several health and support camps organized for senior citizens as part of Smile Foundation’s healthcare projects across India. Hundreds turned up to avail the healthcare services, but in addition to imminent medical attention, what they needed the most was company – someone who would listen to them, say a kind word, hold their hand, and show just a little bit of love and care. Old age, coupled with poverty, neglect and loneliness is no lesser ailment for the less privileged elderly than the many health torments that they are bound to live with day and night. While in the prime of their lives, they struggled hard to ensure that their children do not have to sleep hungry, they have been left alone in an age when they are even unable to work for a living.
But you would not find them complaining. While some of them find solace in the company of their life partners who continue to be by their side despite time and age, others are determined to find an independent source of livelihood. They clearly do not wish to be an unwanted burden on their children, wanting nothing but some love and affection from them.
“Cataract had made my life tough. I was missing out on the small joys of my life. After a small surgery and a couple of visits at the doctor, my vision restored and once again, my life has become colourful. I only wish to see my children once more.” A grandfather to two kids, Shantaram had developed cataract in both his eyes. Due to lack of awareness and means to visit a health facility, he had attributed his vision loss to old age and had no hope that he could ever see again properly. Smile Foundation’s cataract camp in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh, came as a ray of hope in his life. He says Smile Foundation has not only given back his vision, but also his happiness.
Smile Foundation had launched an initiative to provide the minimum healthcare provisions to the senior citizens in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh. Under the programme, a special eye cum cataract detection camp was organized in the area. In this camp, patients were subjected to eye tests and screening for cataract. The camp was attended by more than 400 people from different villages and majority of them were senior citizens having vision problems due to old age. Post screening, 180 patients, including both men and women, were identified for cataract surgery. These patients were counseled on the causes of the eye ailment they were suffering from and the treatment/surgery needed to restore their vision. All the identified patients underwent cataract surgeries successfully. To ensure full recovery, the patients were also explained the precautions they need to follow and were also provided the necessary medicines.
The camp gave a new hope to the elderly who have to earn their own livelihood. With corrected vision they will now be able to resume work and be independent. While many of the people were not even aware that cataract was treatable, others were simply negligent. Lack of awareness about the causes of cataract, its symptoms and treatment is a major factor that has led to an increase in the number of cataract patients in areas such as Bilaspur, particularly among the aged. Hence a major goal of Smile Foundation when organizing such camps was also to spread awareness among the community.
Another Smile Health Camp was organized in Gurgaon especially for the senior citizens. The camp was attended by both men and women. Old age leads to many health problems that are worsened by lack of awareness and neglect. Majority of the senior citizens who turned up for the camp were either living on meager incomes or with their families and had no funds for diagnosis and treatment.
A dedicated team of volunteers went from door to door to pick up the elderly from the identified slums and villages in the area, and after the camp ensured to drop them back to their homes safely. The team of doctors present at the camp not only performed screening tests on the attendees, but also explained ways in which they can take better care of themselves with minimum efforts. Free consultation along with the essential medication was provided to the beneficiaries.
Smile Foundation considers it a privilege to be able to take care of the health of elderly and aid them in any way which can reduce their pain and suffering. Senior Citizens for one of the most vulnerable sections of our society, along with women and children, and Smile Foundation will continue its efforts to bring quality healthcare to their doorsteps. The health and well being of the society’s aged should not just be considered a responsibility of their children, the society as a whole should come forward to become the supporting pillar for the elderly.
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