Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Grandpa Will Not Die.........

My grandpa is not going to die soon. He plans to score a century"...........

"My mother in law will not leave till she swallows her only surviving son"...............

"I need to get on with my life. I cannot be responsible for my mother all my life. I plan to put her in a home and accept my promotion with a transfer"...............

Old age and the available medical technology to prolong life have evoked such comments from the kith and kin of old people who live but have no life. I do not know whether their caretakers ought to be blamed because in most of these cases children have tried their best to look after them but are reacting to the frustration that sets in when one feels helpless.

I remember having a talk with my husband a few months back. An elderly relative had just passed on and his family felt relieved. The affection was there alright but the death gave them a much desired freedom to plan a holiday or pay a visit to their children in distant shores. I had then expressed my opinion in favor of mercy killing in my own case.

"I'd be pained to be the cause of any inconvenience to my children. So in the case of an incurable illness I wouldn't want anyone to prolong my life with medication. I'd be glad to go."

My husband made a joke of it.

"The police would arrest me in that case and you'd be unable to leave on your heavenly journey in peace."

"I am serious. I would want you all to let me go."

There was pain in my husband's voice when he said-

"Is it that easy? What if it was me that is terminally ill? Would you then let me die? I too would not want to be a burden to anyone."

His words set me thinking. I had not thought of it from anyone else's point of view. But what then is the solution? It is so common to see people leading a healthy and sometimes not so healthy life even after they've entered their nineties. Their children are retired pensioners with as many if not more health problems. Medical expenses keep soaring and the next generation in all probability has moved to distant places in search of a satisfying career with a good pay package. A weekly phone call and an annual visit is all that they have time for. This is where I feel senior citizen's homes help. This is no longer a home for abandoned parents. This is a place where one can perhaps get the care that an ageing parent deserves – so what if one has to pay for it? In these days of unreliable domestic help, would not an arrangement that takes care of cooking and cleaning be a viable option? I know of a couple relocating to a senior citizen's home in Pondicherry after retirement taking with them their mothers aged 85 and 82. They sold their house in Jamshedpur and invested the money prudently to ensure adequate monthly returns and now lead a peaceful life. They visit their children and relatives as and when they feel like it and their mothers are looked after by the staff in the home. They receive visitors too and do not feel the strain because they have the option of ordering food from the mess and both groups are happy. More than other things medical attention is readily available with 24 hour ambulance service and a tie up with hospitals ensures that they are treated immediately. Under the present scenario I feel that one should consider this a possible option along with that of moving in with their children at some point of time.

And they had better remember that adjustments have to be made whatever their choice.


13 comments:

hillgrandmom said...

There should also be a provision for a living will as is there in come other countries, so that a person, while alive and healthy, can ask that spouse/children, can take the decision not to prolong life unnecessarily. I do not think that it is being unfair to anyone else to say-'I do not wish for any aggressive/out of the way therapy if I am old and tired, that would prolong my life without improving the quality of my life'.
The old age home you talk about seems a very good idea.

Renu said...

This point has been going on my mind for such a long time, as I see many families where a couple has retired, has some health problems and they have their mother or father above 90,living with them.At that age its not a simple question of loving the parents or doing your duty and all that...Specially for woman who atleast at a certain period would like to free of alland its she who has to look after her MIl or FIL.

I alway say that as soon as my husband stops working, I would prefer a place where I dont have to do housekeeping and for that a place like what you told about Pondichery is best I think.

Hip Grandma said...

hillgrandmom:it is time we gave a thought to such problems.It is a tiring experience attending to old people when one is past sixty.And help when available is expensive and unreliable. i know of a colleague, herself unmarried and near retirement,looking after her 85 year old mother.She has engaged two attendants and ends up doing most of the work - like feeding and bathing the mother - herself because they are never punctual nor are reliable.

Renu:Longevity is to be welcomed only if one is blessed with a healthy body and an adjustible temperament. And as you say it is the DIL who does the job of caring for the elderly parents in law and she is criticized all the same.

Jeevan Baretto said...

Thats a nice point that you have raised. I have my widowed mother in India who's living all alone. I am in US completing my studies and plan to find a job here. I am just worried whats going to happen to my mom later. She is in her late 50s and my dad passed away last year. I still have at least 3 more years to complete my studies before I can decide about my career. As you said in the post, I call up once a week and plan on visiting home once a year.

Ugich Konitari said...

HHG, I've been thinking about this since reading your post. Started writing a comment, but then decided to do a post myself as the comment was getting out of control :-).

Just done it ...

writerzblock said...

Couldn't agree with you more... I am fully in favour of mercy killing and also the option of moving into a home for the aged instead of expecting kids to look after us as we age. There is no point in living together and being sad. Might as well live away and be happy instead.

As for carers who are relieved when the person they have been caring for dies, I think it is very natural. I know of someone who has been caring for a bedridden person for almost 10 years now. With no respite. I feel terrible for the carer. TEN years of life have been screwed because of one person who cannot get better in any case. Why can't mercy killing be made legal?!!!!

Hip Grandma said...

jeevan:welcome here. I can understand your concern since my husband and me too lead a lonely life in India and our children keep worrying about us. but the option of moving to foreign shores also does not appeal to us. so we cannot really blame them. This is where i think senior citizen's homes help.

suranga;went through your piece and i must say that your analogy was superb.

writerzblock.welcome here. Mercy killing appears justified when viewed from a distance. it is very difficult for the family to go for it even it were made legal and the suffering person wants it whole heartedly.in the joint family set up the responsibility was shared and no one felt over worked. With improved living conditions other such problems do crop up.

Vidya said...

I don't know what to say! The option may be viable for those who can afford it.I've been visiting homes during the anniversaries of my mom and dad and its such a sight! I only wish youngsters put their own people ahead of everything.. Yes, sometimes it gets tough for the children if they themselves are in their 50s and 60s! I like the way you have broached the subject HHG! Pranams!

Hip Grandma said...

Vidya:Welcome here. sooner or later we are all going to be occupying a secluded corner whether at home or with senior citizens in a separate home. it is better to be prepared.

dipali said...

I guess many of us need to start planning ahead, for being in a place where our last years can be spent in comfort and dignity, without impinging upon the lives of our kith and kin.
A And hillgrandmom's point of a living will is indeed an absolute essential.

Hip Grandma said...

dipali:we do have to try to be as little dependent as possible on the next generation.They have enough stress as such and need no addition.

uma said...

Hi HHG, I stumbled upon your blog while blog-hopping and simply loved your articles. This one in particular set me thinking and drove me to write one myself here:-)
http://mymaidenattempt.blogspot.com/2011/02/age-old-old-age-story.html

Hip Grandma said...

Uma:Thanks for your kind words. I went through your piece on your grandparents and felt sad that an ageing couple had to be shunted from one son's home to another's. However this is not so uncommon. Parents too have to welcome daughters and sons in law into the family fold and open up to them and their relationship has to be inclusive if they want to establish a rapport with them. But unfortunately they stick to their ways and the relationship becomes a burden.