Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents

- How far can you go ...

Renowned film makers Rajshri Productions made a windfall profit when their 1977 Hindi release “Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye” proved to be a major success at the box office. Telugu actress Rameshwari Talluri shot into instant fame after the success of this film though its hero Prem Kishan (son of star pair Premnath & Bina Rai) did not have much of a Bollywood career later. Actor Madan Puri, known mostly for his villainous roles in Bollywood, played the role of the hero’s grandfather. Puri’s heart-warming performance won him laurels. Puri – a patient with a heart ailment and hyper-tension is advised by his doctor friend (Iftekhar in another of his avuncular roles) not to consume sweets and oily snacks. But Puri is unable to resist the temptation of having a bite and he is often chided for this by his doctor.

While such instances in films bring a smile on our faces, can we cope with such a reality in our real life? It is often said that as our parents grow old, they almost become like children and have to be molly coddled. But where do you draw the line? When we were young, our parents were young too and so it was part of their parenting woes to bring up children who often threw a fit. But when our parents grow old, we are no longer children. We too enter that phase in our lives (middle age) when we have to face challenges from the generation before us and our children.

With the average Indian suffering from lifestyle diseases at a much earlier age, the complexity of the situation is hard to escape. Frequent bouts of economic recession complemented by absolute lack of job security and massive lay-offs are only exacerbating matters. In such a situation, how do you exactly deal with obstinate parents who can never see the other side of the fence? If you attempt to convince them (to take care of their health and not to eat any food that is unhealthy) it is almost always brushed off. When parents fail to heed to your advice and frequently need medical attention – more than them it is their children who bear the brunt. The love, care and affection that you demonstrate towards parents who refuse to see reason leads to collateral damage for their children in the form of additional stress that may not manifest openly.

When this film was remade in Tamil as “Marumagal” (1986), Revathi, an upcoming star then was the obvious choice to play the role that was essayed by Rameshwari in the original. Thespian Sivaji Ganesan played the role of the grandfather with a heart of gold. While Puri delivered a rather subdued performance, Ganesan was at his boisterous best. I recollect my late grandmother watching this movie at least 3-4 times just to relish watching Sivaji Ganesan stealthily having a jalebi despite medical advice to the contrary.

According to a concept called ‘Active Ageing’, senior citizens must be encouraged to lead an active lifestyle taking best care of their health. This concept of active ageing actually originated in the UK and sounds best in principle. According to this philosophy, the elderly can continue to enjoy life even after attaining superannuation.

But the situation around me is often baffling. I often witness senior citizens either glued to television or addicted to WhatsApp. This WhatsApp mania refuses to take leave of them even when they visit temples and other religious shrines. I have seen many of them becoming defensive when even a minor suggestion is made to them. Active Ageing is only possible if both husband and wife are healthy – otherwise it becomes the duty of the active and healthy partner to take care of his/ her partner who is sick. If both of them are sick then the onus is on their children! Those without children suffer an abominable fate at the hands of scheming and avaricious relatives. The Hindu had reported the unfortunate incident about how well-known Tamil novelist Rajam Krishnan was shortchanged by her own relatives and was forced to lead the life of a destitute. There are also those senior citizens whose children have flown the coop and live in Western nations to earn a living. Prosperity comes at a price!

But for those children who have chosen to take care of their parents and eschewed options to go abroad, what is in store? More so if parents are adamant and cantankerous and refuse to see reason, it can be hell for their wards. The question is – How far can you go to take care of your parents? Should you take additional stress, spoil your health and end up having sleepless nights worrying about them? One needs to have a job to provide for their basic and advanced needs and if their sickness subsumes your life then where do you go? Sending your parents to an old age home is a simpler option – but if your parents are not adaptable anywhere except their own homes then it is indeed a Catch-22 situation.

I hope parents remember that their children are no longer children and even they may have parental responsibilities and their own ailments to deal with. If they insist on living life the way they want to and keep falling sick then it may prove to be deleterious to the health of their children. Will they ever understand?

More By  :  Vydehi Ramamirtham

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