The past few years have seen a huge change in our social structure. We have youngsters moving off to greener pastures in droves, looking for a better life. We are thus faced with an entirely new phenomenon of parents who have children, but no one to look after them.
We also have parents whose children are very much in India and may even be in the same city, who are either unwilling to look after their parents or are unable to do so because of various constraints.
We as a society are still unable to come to grips with this change and deal with it in the only way we know how to – get emotionally upset and blame the children.
Children being selfish, or refusing to look after their old people when they can (there may be many reasons) is a different topic in and of itself. But my heart goes out to those who are forced to send off their parents to an old age home.
Our life styles have changed, we all go out to work – sometimes out of choice, sometimes out of economic necessity. It is one thing if parents can be left at home either on their own (if they are able to look after themselves) or with someone to look after them for a few hours. In the event the old person is really in need of 24 hour nursing care, there could be other issues such as infrastructure at home (e.g. when the person is in need of a ventilator etc.). What happens if the old person is afflicted with a chronic infection and there are other vulnerable persons (children) in the house? Or if they suffer from mental problems associated with senility where 24 hour care is required? Is there an option?
Inter personal relationships and family dynamics are other reasons why people are being pushed to opt for this alternative. Our social system which sends the daughter away and brings in a daughter-in-law is flawed in a very basic aspect. It is usually the woman who will be responsible for the actual looking after the household and the members of the house. If the relationship with her parents-in-law is turbulent, there is plenty of scope for discontentment, unhappiness and vengeful feelings.
When other siblings refuse to look after the old parents, there are even more grounds for unpleasantness and odious comparisons and accusations. Even in the event of all siblings being willing to chip in to look after the parents, it is far from pleasant or sometimes even impossible to shunt the old people from house to house.
While it is definitely the best option if old people can live at home in the midst of a loving family, utopian situations do not always exist.
All old people have a right to live with dignity and taking all possible circumstances into consideration, an old age home may give them a better chance at that than being “looked after” by quibbling, unwilling family.