Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, October 15, 2009

Frailties of age

By Kazim Ibn Sadique and Tareq Adnan

A walking cane leaning against the chair, glasses slipping down the nose, the newspaper shaking a little but the tremors quickly concealed. Arthritis had bent and swollen the veined fingers and simple things like clutching a newspaper were now somewhat troublesome. The lonely swish of the fan in an empty room, the light from a window, and a steaming cup of tea, solitude and age. The picture is almost beautiful, until you notice the frailties of age along with the beauty of it.

1 October saw the observation of the World Elders Day. To the uninitiated it is probably the least glorified of all the 'days' we celebrate throughout the year. There are no Hallmarks trademarked cards with cute poems and nice little idyllic pictures being exchanged. No small boxes of chocolates and certainly very little TV coverage. In a way, it reflects just how much we have distanced ourselves from our elders and our apathy towards them.

In our youthful exuberance, a lot of us have forgotten that we too age. It's time we changed that.

Many people say taking care of old people is like taking care of children, though that's not necessarily true. There are some who would go, as far as to say that they resemble wrinkly children. And we as mentioned, though its not entirely true, they do require help. And we're here to give you a basic guideline of taking care of your most cherished family members as they age.

The art of conversation
As we grow older, go into our formative teenage years a lot of us notice how distant we can become from our peers. It's hard to socialise with those younger than us and even harder to talk to those older. In a way, age brings solitude. For the elderly, the situation can be said to be concentrated. With the working members of the family becoming more and more interested in paying the monthly mortgage, it's hard to give quality time to family. But that doesn't mean we don't have time to talk. A few hours every now and then with gramps can be very refreshing, especially if you've just come back from a very trying chemistry class where you didn't get one single chance to talk to that girl. Grandpas in a general rule are funny. And bugging them about their memories and recollections can be fun. Imagine our surprise when we found out our dads used to be hippies.

This not only helps you get to know your own family better but you get a personalised history with the added bonus of getting close to the elderly. Relationships are basically simple, and in these cases all you need to do is provide companionship. As we said, solitude is never easy to deal with. It would be nice to have wise friend to confide in don't you think?

An apple a day…
Unfortunately doctors still have a habit of showing up. And with them comes that inevitable barrage of meds. With bodies' slowly tiring and giving way, meds are the glue that keep things together. And because doctors never really like to keep things real, prescriptions can be hard to read (not just because of the horrendous handwriting) and decipher. Failing eyes might mix up something with the other. And that's not something you want to happen.

Helping out with the intake of medicine is an easy task and a well appreciated one. But very important as we said earlier. You have to be really careful with the meds if you are in charge of them and try to shape your schedule around the medical chart. If that is impossible, make sure there are others who can read the prescription and dish out the meds when you are out and about.

Fine Dining
The dinner table usually means the whole family getting together and sharing a meal, the picture of family togetherness. To be cynical, the schedules of family members ranging from hectic to absurd, its sometimes hard to share a meal. And eating alone is trying. Try and share the meals with your grandparents. And if you're grandparents are great cooks, hey a simple awesome tasting meal is never unappreciated right. About the restrictions on diet, diligently following them means healthy living, but the whole joy of eating is dissipated. Every now and then, ignore the rules and make something special out of an everyday meal. You'll like it, gramps will like it and like we said, good food is always good.

Please try not to have your grandparent eat alone. It makes them feel unwanted and it causes them to be cranky. And the house helps today sometimes put on a rude attitude towards the elderly. Make sure they know who the real boss of the family is.

Mental shield
This one depends of course on the mental health of the person in your care. If they have cardiac problems, or if anxiety will really mess them up, try to keep them shielded from the various family troubles that crop up. They should always see things the sunny side up. So make sure you guys are all smiles when you chat to them. Play games if you can. One of our grandfathers loves spade trump. Yeah, sometimes we let him win. Most times, we don't have to. He kicks our butts all by himself. What does this accomplish? A lot incidentally, you learn the nuances of learning to play cards, your grandparents are happy and entertained and at the end of day, its all about having fun.

They once found this Neanderthal skeleton of an old man in a place called Shanidar in Kurdistan, Iraq. From the skeleton it was obvious that the Neanderthal had sustained heavy injuries during his lifetime that disabled him considerably. What is interesting is that the injuries showed extensive healing and were not the immediate cause of death. Scientists inferred that the Neanderthals showed considerable care of their injured and disabled. It isn't easy. It isn't always satisfying. And as the song says, you get what you give. Loneliness is a curse you are trying to save them from. So that when you are old, karma will act on your behalf and give you a strapping young grandchild to share stories about chasing girls/boys with. Hopefully.



home | The Daily Star Home

2009 The Daily Star