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 .
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.