Extended longevity results in second childhood — please handle them with care.
A harsh fact of life, old age, is often compared to second childhood. However, the sad fact remains that the way these elderly used to take care of us when it was our childhood, we are not taking care of them when they are in their second childhood. Are these two childhoods different? Why is there a change in attitudes in the same set of individuals involved?
On a bed in the foyer lay 88-year-old Jane Doe (name changed), her eyes screwed up in agony, her fists clenched, with a broken leg that had sat untended for weeks. Feces caked her body, from her arms down to her feet, filling the crevices between her toes and under her fingernails.
The fact that Jane even lived in the house was a surprise to most of the neighbors. None had ever seen her. None had any idea she’d spent her final days in hellish pain after a fall. None knew that her daughter and caretaker, Junior Jane Doe, had waited at least three weeks before calling for help, or that the help would come far too late.
In the end, this Jane Doe joined a large and growing cohort of elderly people across the world who live — and increasingly die — in silence. They are unseen and unheard, left to fend for themselves against a problem society that has barely begun to notice, let alone fix: elder abuse.
Tom wanted to remain living in his home, but he really needed someone to help him with his day-to-day care. His niece Maggie had always loved her Uncle Tom and since she was between apartments, it was decided that she would move into his home and assist him with his daily tasks.
Maggie tries her best, and she can be very kind at times. But at other times, she loses patience with how slowly Tom moves. She’ll sometimes shove him out of the way if she’s in a hurry, resulting in more than one tumble and bruise. She tries to be patient, but often her frustration leads to insults, name calling and door slamming.
Neighbours had heard the shouting and Tom’s sharp cries of pain from time to time. One of these neighbours was finally compelled to call the police when she heard Tom’s continual cries through the bathroom window. Police found him on the floor of the bathroom with a shattered hip and bleeding head. He had been laying there in pain for some time after Maggie, frustrated with having to help him with his personal hygiene, pushed him off the toilet and left the house in a rage.
Stories like these are in every part of the world. Most of the elderly live with relatives or at home, and researchers estimate at least 4 to 10 percent of them are abused, likely much more. Even by the lowest count of 4 percent, that means about 30 million people.
By the year 2050, there will be more old people on earth than children for the first time in history, because of rising life spans and falling birth rates.
Let us look at the following points and give some thought:
Dependency | Needed caregivers (nannies & private nurses) | Support needed to walk | Liquid/ semi-liquid diet | Improper comprehension | Guidance needed| Low body strength| Brittle bones | Need of stroller & wheelchair | Travel fare and other concessions.
These are the various similarities between a child and elderly. Do you now see why extended longevity results in second childhood? The way elderly behave and live their lives is so similar to the manner a child does. So the way in which we as children were treated and handled, our elderly deserve the same.
If you are blessed enough to be staying with an elderly, how many times have you experienced that they pick up the TV remote and try to start the AC? Or keep their mobile phones inside the wardrobe or the fridge? They will call you and then forget why they did that. Or they become very aggressive or violent or stay irritated? Most common thing that I have personally encountered is the feeling of depression and the constant nagging thought that why am I living? What’s the purpose? Medically speaking, this type of behaviour is called adult regression — a stage of Dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease.
I am not a medical doctor but my research tells me that there is no proper cure for all this. Accepted that for a young generation, survival in this tough competitive world drains one out so much that it becomes extremely difficult and tests one’s patience to the limits. But then we also need to understand and accept that the elderly cannot help it.
Our patience, time, love, care, show of affection, for certain work done give them a sense that “they did it”, bringing a smile on their face, and making them feel wanted and valued are the only things that will help. Caretakers and nurses should be a support system, not their only family.
October 1st is International Day of Older Persons. The day is celebrated by raising awareness about issues affecting the elderly, such as senescence and elder abuse. It is also a day to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15th. Let us pledge to show care and give love to our elderly. A piece of our time is all they ask for. After all that they have done for us, I am sure you will agree that they deserve this much for sure.
Thank you for reading. They say God could not be everywhere so He created moms. Let’s take good care of our elderly and make them feel loved, valued, and wanted.