Palliative care- A savior for ailing elders
What ailing elders need the most in their twilight years is proper care, love, and support that allows them to live with dignity and respect. Read on to find out if outdated traditions are taking that away from them.
Hetal Dave sits alone on an oversized ancestral swing on the porch of her house. Although it has been four years since her mother-in-law passed away, Dave has some deep regrets that keep tugging at the strings of her soul. She remembers her mother-in-law as a very strong and independent lady who did not get the respect and dignity she deserved in the twilight years of her life.
“What makes me sadder is the fact that although we loved her, we couldn’t do anything and felt so helpless,” recalls Dave with moist eyes.
Sitla Bai’s story happens in most households
Narrating Sitla Bai her mother-in-law’s story, Dave says it all started with old age. “I have seen a strong capable woman being reduced to a dependent and helpless person within 4 years,”
Sitla Bai, fondly called ‘ba’ was a loving mother to seven children. And saw her family flourish and grow. Even after her husband’s death, Sitla Bai ensured that the family was taken care of well and the running was smooth and fair.
But they say that old age doesn’t spare anyone and Sitla Bai was no exception. When she turned 72, Sitla Bai’s health showed signs of deterioration. She began forgetting things. She would insist on cooking but add salt to the food twice, she would wash her hands multiple times, and would even tidy her cupboard repeatedly, complaining that she hadn’t done it in weeks. Initially, the family thought that this was normal and would tease her but when the episodes of forgetfulness became more frequent and severe(she would start getting delusional and violent), the members started feeling the pinch. “Ba was getting more and more difficult to handle and if we would be a little firm with her, she would start yelling and throw tantrums,” says Dave. “We started getting worried and were lost as to how to deal with her.”
The situation continued for 3 years and her family was at the end of their tethers. It was then that they started reaching out to family members who lived in other cities for help. Since Sitla Bai had 2 brothers and 1 sister, it was decided that she would live with each one of them for 3 months. This would give her immediate family some respite.
In the beginning, everything was well. She was welcomed everywhere and the extended family was keen on taking care of her in the best way they could, but after the first year, everyone was exhausted. When Dave decided to visit her ‘ba’ unexpectedly, she was shocked to see that her mother-in-law was in a dismal state. Her clothes were reeking of urine, her hair was unkempt, her surroundings were messy and she was lying all alone in a room. Dave confronted the family only to learn that they were doing the best they could but they were humans at the end of the day and Sitla Bai needed constant attention that wasn’t possible.
Sitla Bai was brought back to her home in Mandvi but the problem continued. Despite her children taking turns, it was impossible to take care of her as she was more confined to her bed. ”She would call out to me and I would just ignore her as I had so many other responsibilities. I didn’t hate her, I never could, but I was tired and weary and so I would shout at her. She would look at me with sad eyes wondering what she had done and yet I wouldn’t go to her, spend some time with her or comfort her” admits Dave breaking down and adding that the others faced a similar dilemma. After living in solitude, pain, and confusion, the old lady passed away at the age of 80 years. The person who dedicated her life to her family was ignored, yelled at, and left the world alone, without any support or compassion. “ It was our fault, we couldn’t take care of her,” cries Dave but was it really their fault?
What Dave and her family faced, is common although many don’t speak about it. We don’t hate or want to ignore our elders but life with its multiple challenges and responsibilities traps us all in a whirlpool rendering us helpless despite our best intentions. And we see our ailing elders slip away from this world leaving us guilty that we didn’t do enough.
So is there a way out? There is. Get help.
What is Palliative care?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Palliative Care is defined as the approach to patients with life-threatening illnesses, to improve their quality of life by early identification and management of the complications that cause pain, suffering, and other psychosocial, physical, and spiritual problems. Understandably, palliative care aims to provide relief from pain and enhance the quality of life, so that patients can lead a reasonably active life filled with dignity and free from any distress.
What does Palliative care include?
- Doctor supervised pain management
- 24-hour nursing & care-taking
- Ambulant and bed-ridden patient monitoring devices
- Bed-sore prevention and management
- Portable ventilation support
- Specialized Nutrition
- Drain & Stoma care
- Counselling and support
- And most importantly dignity and respect for the patient.
Sukino provides Palliative Care services at its palliative care centers in Bangalore and Kochi. At the care centers, we support the psychological, physical, and social needs of patients suffering from medical conditions that cannot be cured but can only be managed with comfort care. Our services help the family cope with the patient’s illness and provide a level of care that they would find difficult to provide at home. Let go of the guilt of not being able to care for your ailing elders at home. By providing them with the right medical care and support at the right time at the right place you are not only showing them how much you care but also giving them the two things they treasure the most- Dignity and respect.
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