Of Old Age and the Elderly

By Mona Babajee

I was in my yoga class last week that the subject of old age and Homes crept up and being the eldest, I added a few words. Nowadays, a lot of elderly people have to spend the rest of their days in Homes despite having children here. Most daughters and daughters-in-law are working fulltime and they just don’t have the time for their old folks.

When I become very old, decrepit and can’t look after myself, it’s understandable, I will probably have to go in a Home, unless I can find someone to live with me and I provide board and lodging plus some payment. Because I can’t expect my younger son to leave the Met Police in the UK to come here and look after me, or the elder one to leave his job at Moorfields Eye Hospital to do so either. If they were living in this country, they would have been bound to keep an eye on me.

But if an 80-year old is ambulant, has her faculties, her own house, gets two pensions from the government, has three daughters, a son in a good job and a nurse daughter-in-law should her place be in a Home? Well, she is in one.

Some old people can be cantankerous but not all. I think children should take it in turns to look after an elderly sick parent and not leave the responsibility to only one sibling. My friend was at the supermarket recently and saw an old colleague pushing a heavy trolley. ‘Why are you shopping alone? W where are your children?’ ‘My kids don’t have time for me, they visit once a year,’ she said, and yet they live in this country. She used to be a headteacher, so was able to send her son abroad for further studies.

Even in those ‘couvents’ it’s the same story usually. A lot of the residents do not have anyone to look after them. So it’s understandable that they have to be there, but some do have kids and they tell you they hardly ever visit and the parents are left languishing there. Another thing which parents or the mother should never do is put the house in the son’s name because what usually happens as a rule is that she will get a right royal kick afterwards and be left in the lurch. It’s the daughter-in-law who will then become mistress of the place.

Many Hindus will go to the temple on Sundays or during Durga Pooja and Ram Nawmi and you will see hoards of them there in a lot of pomp and fervour; but instead of worshipping those idols, it’s your parents you should be worshipping for you will get more blessings from them than the deities. No, I don’t belong to any sect and with a long first name like mine and two Marathi surnames acquired at birth and not through marriage thank you I can only be a Hindu. (Even my 3½-year-old granddaughter knows she is a Hindu).

I don’t claim to have been the perfect daughter though I wish I had, but the few times my mum had been very sick, there was never any need for any doctor. I had to be the nurse and doctor. But when she had her gallbladder removed, she had to be hospitalized and needed a blood transfusion also. One morning after visiting her, I sat at the bus stop, crying my eyes out. Where was I going to get that blood from? I am diabetic, so is my better half. I did ask but I felt it was something too personal, unless a donor is doing it on a voluntary basis. I thought of explaining the situation to the superintendent that when my sons will come they’ll give the blood back. Somehow, we were able to get two pints of that precious liquid. Once home, she got good nursing care and made a good recovery thanks to the treating doctor, bless him for his medical care.

In 2005, she fell next door and sustained two fractures and after one month I begged the doctor for his discharge though she had some problems with her intestines. I just couldn’t leave her to breathe her last in a HHom`1hospital bed surrounded by a screen for company. Then I hired a young fellow to come in the morning to help with nursing care and house cleaning. She didn’t survive long and I knew she wouldn’t anyway and I wished so much I was in a position to provide more care; but I have been unwell myself for years and my career went down the drain, just like the millions of those investors.

Maybe because I am an only child, my mother was my best friend, my mentor, my confidante, my guide, my counselor and many other things. I am not asking you not to neglect your parents because you should know about your duties. Even now, whenever I’m about to slip which is often, or have hurt myself or am hurting, the first word that I utter aloud is ‘maa’!

* Published in print edition on 17 May 2013

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