Caring for Elderly Parents

Dealing with issues while caring for your elders.

Very few of us are blessed with the responsibility of caring for one’s parents. I cannot express the rewards and blessings that I enjoy just due to their presence in our home.

My parents have been with me for five years now. It is heartbreaking to see one’s parents getting  weaker day by day. Yet, being with them at this time in their life is the greatest feeling.   It has been a time full of ‘raunaq’ and lots of fun too. Our times have been difficult, happy, rewarding and wonderful. I’ve written in detail about almost every aspect here. Now that they are older, I felt that a brief updating is needed.

In my blog post on weekly planning  here, you will notice that it is best to plan one’s own week from physical, social/emotional, intellectual, financial and spiritual point of view. So, while caring for one’s parents too,  it should be the same .

Physical caring:

 

  • Clothing: Make sure clothing is comfortable and easy to change. Get new clothes for them, especially every season and on special occasions. (You can give away another dress with their permission which can become charity from their side.)
  • Get as much help of manpower as you can afford. Train them and motivate them well. Do, give surprise checks. Yet, keep their morale high, by appreciating their efforts. We know, it is a tough job. So, be kind to them. Yet, they must realize that they have to be efficient. Your surprise checks and vigilant care must be there also.
  • Equipment: Use the appropriate equipment available in medical shops. This  could include hospital bed,  wheelchair, walker, special chair for bathing, and the one for the WC is also good.
  • Dealing with incontinence: Remember your parents can become incontinent, (you don’t remember a time, when you used to be that as a kid, so stop turning up your nose.) If necessary,  pampers and catheters can help. Make sure rules of hygiene are followed. You can find water proof slip covers for mattresses, also  smaller water proof sheets to protect the place they sit or sleep in.
  • Family doctor: Have a good doctor on call nearby, whom you can consult on your phone also, preferably who is willing to visit your home. Otherwise, do take your parents to hospital on time. I’ve found that responding to first signs of problems is better than waiting for things to get worse, and then going in an emergency. On the other hand, after some time, you realize, you can handle at least fifty percent of the issues on your own. You learn from every hospital experience. Soon you can reduce trips to hospital.
  • Laboratory Tests: Let me tell you one secret. Every doctor is made to advise you to have so many ‘tests’ taken. (This is all cash income for the hospital – believe me, my ninety year old dad has been tested for fertility!) This is not a laughing matter, so do counter question the doctor about each and every test that he prescribes. Ask if it is invasive and what it is all about. You will find, half of them are unnecessary. I’ve realized some counter questioning can make a big difference. Of course, you cannot do this in an emergency, but you can be vigilant on normal visits.
  • Emergency services: Do proper emergency services research, to find out which hospital is best. In Islamabad, Quaid-e-Azam hospital is the best these days. Do find out what is good for which type of emergencies.  Going to the right place for the specific emergency is vital.
  • Healthy foods and their intake: As far as food is concerned, sometimes the intake is restricted due to dental problems. In that case, getting good dental work done is essential. My father got a set of teeth put in, which is the full set. Due to that he looks good and also can eat well. Now, he is having problem in swallowing. So, now we just liquidize the food, and make it into a porridge so he can have the food. Make sure their nutritional intake is good. Fruits and vegetables are a must, as is meat and milk.
  • Herbal and natural treatments: Try to use herbal and natural treatments as much as possible.
  • Safety: Have handles placed in washrooms and preferably soft flooring, to avoid slipping and falls.

Social and emotional care:

 

  • Home environment: Keep a happy environment in your home, and in their room. Try keeping their familiar things with them.  
  • Take them often for outings: Do make sure the outings are within the time slot of their waking hours, and smooth and well planned. Do not tax them too much. Never be out too long.
  • Encourage visitors: Having visitors over to meet your elders is the best thing. Specially persons they love. Such moments are cherished by all. When visitors come you need to inform them about your parent’s routine. Be vigilant about their sleeping and eating hours. Encourage guests to adhere to these hours. Otherwise, take the parents in to rest, and entertain the guests yourself.
  • Mood swings: Take the bad moods with humor and patience. It is okay. Remember, as kids we would bellow our heads off? So, it is okay if they want to do it sometimes. Even now, we all have our moments.
  • Love: Plenty of love and care is all that they need. Hug them tightly, and sing their favorite songs for them too. Otherwise, keep the I-pad handy.
  • Psychological issues: Just be happy and keep them happy eighty percent of the time. Be patient and loving. However, if you feel that your parent is being too aggressive and impatient, know that it can be a medical condition, not age related at all. Perhaps there is another issue: As Dr. Shahid once mentioned, a problem can be due to any of three  following factors:
    • Age, 
    • Illness.
    • Medication. It could be the reaction of two types of medications that you are giving, causing this side effect. Only a doctor can find out, and monitor this situation. Preferably a good psychiatrist.
  1. Intellectual care:

  • Use intellectual triggers of memory and learning to keep their minds active. Use of color and sounds also help. Put on their favorite music for them by using the Youtube, and help with finding whatever interests them. Get new gadgets like mobile phone, ipad and computer for them, help them in getting comfortable with these.
  • Reading of books and magazines is very good. If they can’t read themselves, you can read out. You can see what they like and make sure you help them attain it. I know my father loves Allama Iqbal, Ghalib and Mian Muhammad Bukhsh, so I often read their poetry out to him, and his face really brightens up. He even fills in with verses that I cannot remember. It is a wonderful experience.
  • There will be times when he or she is disoriented. Just go along.  You will notice, most of the times they are perfectly fine and fully alert.
  • When you speak to your parent, look in the eye, speak slowly and slightly loudly. Keep your expression pleasant and listen when he speaks. Be patient and repeat what you understand. (Another point suggested by Dr. Shahid. He is a consultant at IDC F-8, Islamabad.)
  1. Financial care:

  • It is essential to let them enjoy the fruits of their lifelong hard work. Their property and wealth is theirs. Help them benefit from it. They deserve to enjoy and have all the comforts of all that they own.
  • If they aren’t financially stable, then do give them all that you can.
  • Unfortunately, I’ve come across very ugly scenes where on the death of the father, the children are talking of ‘distribution’ in the lifetime of their mother. How can anyone even think of such a thing? If only one parent is left,  let him enjoy his wealth till the end of his life. You didn’t make it, it is theirs.  Your parent deserves to use his or her wealth to be financially independent .
  • Remember, when you were young, your mother could have got many jobs, but didn’t take them for your sake. Now, when she is old and feeble, you want to deprive her of her own and her husbands’ belongings in their lifetime? I’m really shocked.
  • You are young, robust and strong. You cannot even imagine the hardships your parents suffered to bring you to this strong position that you are enjoying today.
  1. Spiritual care:

  • Reading out Holy Quran to them, is a good way to start the day. Do it with meanings in the language which they understand best. Your voice will be like a tonic for them.
  • Help them in saying prayers.
  • Give sadqa and charity for organizations from their side, or get food distribution in soup kitchens etc.

Take care of your parents with love, and you shall certainly be blessed.

 

 

Marriage Safety Valves

It is about making your story as ‘Happily ever after’ as possible.  

 

(Warning: This is my longest blog post –  why not grab that cup of tea or coffee you’ve been wanting to have?  It is can important topic, almost as important as life itself.  So, here goes: )

I asked my eighty-four-year-old happily married mother what she had to say about married life and she said,

‘Married life is what you make it!’

She said this, after sixty-two years of married life, and her husband is crazy about her. They cannot live without each other even for a minute. Each one looks out for the well-being of the other all the time. Of course they still have their little skirmishes and let each other have it. The fact remains, they cannot be without each other.

Isn’t that what marriage is really all about?

Once I was going through a bad patch in my married life. (My close friends were convinced it was ‘jadoo’ or ‘nazar’, as we were the envy of everyone. Our parties, home and family were looked upon as an example by all. As you can see from my husband’s round up of our home and family here. Anyhow, I didn’t believe that one. )

I went to a mentor of mine. After I told her my (sad) story, she said, ‘you know, everything that you have said, sounded like my own story!’ I was shocked. When we compared, there were a few major common factors.

‘If that is true, then how is it that you are counseling me, and I’m so upset?’

She said, ‘I turned to Allah.’

 

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What to look for in a Life Partner.

The scary business of choosing a life partner.

Making the decision to choose a life partner is the toughest decision of one’s life.   It has to be a decision which is straight from the heart – preferably, keeping both head and heart in sync. It is even tougher if you are choosing one for your child, or helping your friend in the process.

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An Elegant Home in Islamabad.

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Truly, I cherish my friends. Especially the ones whom I’ve known for a long time. Maintaining these friendships is my greatest happiness and joy.

 

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AVM Qasim and Munazza have been known to my husband and myself since 1992. (I’m sure my husband has known bhai for a much longer time.) But I met him and his wife when we were in Badaber, Peshawar. This colony had been originally built by the Americans, but when they left, it was taken over by the air force.  In those days, Waliya was just a baby, and I was a freelance journalist in Peshawar. My articles often got published about Peshawar, in  Tuesday Review of daily Dawn (newspaper) and Women’s Own magazine.

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Blessings of Domestic Help.

Domestic help in Pakistan, and this region (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Gulf States,) are a point of discussion all round. This is so because they are an integral part of our lives. Like them or not, we can’t live without them. Driver, servant, maid, gardener, cleaning maid, cook, guard – you name it we have it. If not many, almost everyone has at least one who does it all.

Most of my married life, I’ve kept part-time help, as I find them less nerve wracking and easier on the pocket. When there is no help, I declare, ‘we are living abroad!’. All of us put on full blast music wherever we are in the house and enjoy while we work. So, it’s ok. Presently, God has been very kind, more so due to my parents, who have become so old and weak that I need twenty-four hour help taking care of them.

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Maintaining Relationships

“Love your relations” Said General Jilani to my father, then he added with a twinkle in his eyes, “ – but only from a distance!” General Jilani, was my father’s senior, when he joined the army. Later, he became the Governor of Punjab, however their closeness continued.  By the way, his home was always full of guests and relations. So, don’t take these remarks too seriously.

There is a lot of wisdom in this remark too. 😉 It just means, ‘be in contact, but give space to each other!’ So, that is what I’m talking about….

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Friends are priceless!

How to have friends and keep them! 

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Friends are some of the greatest treasures that we have. They play such a vital role in our lives. There are all types of friends in our lives. Some are very close, some are just acquaintances, the common factor is that you feel happy just being with them. They make a difference in the quality of our lives. They enhance and enrich us. Yes, having a true friend is priceless.

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Strengths of our Family now

I feel like writing a letter to my late husband.
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Dear NK,

You wrote your article on our family strengths in 2009. That was two years before you left our world. I was reading it today. The way you wrote was so detailed and so amazing.  I feel like writing an epilogue to your article. Just to let you know how we all have been after you left.

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The Sparkle in One’s Life

-Brought by valuing relationships with our land and loved ones.

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At We Play the new place, for the adventurous and fun loving folks of Islamabad.
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So wonderful sharing a meal at the same table.

It rained yesterday. We put off the air conditioner, opened the windows to let in the wind and the sound of pouring rain into the lounge. Yes, a typical downpour of Islamabad. The curtains moved with the wind. Irresistibly, Nataliya was drawn close to the window as she eagerly breathed in the rising fragrance of earth mixed with splashing rain in the raging downpour outside.

“This is the smell that I’ve craved for!” She said with an expression of ecstasy.

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Weathering the storms in married life.

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When married life becomes rocky…

You know what? There is nothing better in life, than a good marriage. So, when it goes bad, – there is nothing worse . The good news is: all marriages are a bit of both types.

So, when the ‘bad’ patches happen, what do you do? How do you survive through these?

The funny thing is, no one will understand.  So, the best policy is to stay quiet. . (Remember, that “you are a raiment for each other” – which means, to conceal each other’s flaws from public eye. People may condemn you for your silence, but in fact, you are mostly on your own here.)

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