by The Welthi Bureau | 12TH, SEPTEMBER, 2018
Dr. Chidrupi Sharma, Head of Emergency and Trauma Service at Continental Hospitals, writes about the challenges faced by those aging in India and the need of the government and communities to address it.
1: What are the major challenges that are faced in India in terms of the aging population?
Ans: Numerous challenges! Apathy by the children, loneliness, and exploitation are cancer that plague the elders. Health care systems are in place but we as children of their future have been too pre-occupied aimlessly causing more harm than they are actually suffering from.
Attention to their needs, care and most importantly, a patient ear would be the elixir to this challenge!
2. Are the Indians prepared to deal with this problem at the community level, individual level and at the society level? What needs to be done to ensure that the aging population has the right food, shelter, housing and also the finances to manage themselves?
Ans: Optimism fails me... individually, societally and as a nation, we are failing to care for our elders. In all forms, recognition of our apathy is the first step towards solving this problem. Understanding of our fallacies and strategizing both individually and as a group is key. Then comes planning and execution. This sounds so cold-blooded but remains the methods sole to the solution. Once these processes are in place, the adaptive and transformative processes would fall in. Then only will the actual and factual challenges and shortcomings come to light. And then only can we know what needs be done and where we are at now. And then only could one prescribe to another idea for betterment.
In short, I shall realize the invaluable presence of the elders, I shall take more time out, provide greater attention to their needs, be patient and listen (simply listening would be more than enough most times) and as I trudge along, realize how much I have learned in providing – fulfilling the claim of life I have proclaimed socially!
3. How can the government help them?
Ans: Many thoughts come to my mind when it comes to caring for elders when the family fails to do so. Providing subsidies for medical care, providing shelter in well run, clean homes for those who are discarded by their kith and kin, providing cash subsidies in all walks of life be it for commute like cabs, commodities, etc.. to medicines, hospitalizations, diagnostics etc.. These too have been mis-utilized by the kin and hence foolproof systems to prevent it from happening.
Empowering the elders to have self-sustenance and having systems to ensure its maintenance.
All said and done, I am part of the governance that has failed, for I have failed. I shall govern myself better, my family better, my society better and then, perhaps, criticize and provide feedback to ‘the government.’
4. What are the medical problems which are most acute, challenging and also expensive that are being seen in this age group?
Ans: In my experience as an Emergency Physician, I often see that elderly population is faced with chronic medical challenges like uncontrolled Diabetes, Hypertension, Arthritis, Coronary Artery Disease, Brain Stroke, Cancer, Bone related issues like falls, fractures, osteoporosis etc.., psychiatric problems like clinical depression, psychosis, anxiety attacks etc.. These can be life or limb threatening and can be expensive to treat. There are advanced treatment modalities available for most of these disease conditions but are often either expensive or difficult to access.
The elders give their time, energy, earnings and every bit of their hard work with the hope that their kith and kin would do the same in their last years, but alas the facts are different. The elders are more often than not managed and taken care of by “round the clock” hired care givers / helpers or nurses, or they land in old age homes or nursing homes to lead their lives.
It pains me to see that the family members of such sick old people believe that they have and are doing their best by providing expensive nursing care and refrain from even visiting these elder’s rooms to even say hello and rely largely on the care givers for updates on their welfare.
5. How can they be looked upon as productive elements in the society? How can that attitude come around? How can they be looked upon as useful part of the society?
Ans: My generation has seen invention and up gradation. But what catches the eye is that the ‘elderly’ as is the group in question, to answer first, have seen the greatest transformations ever perhaps. What’s even more incredulous is the rapidity of this transformation whilst one finds it difficult to adapt to the rapid upgradation process though the technologies are familiar and in day-to-day use.
This elderly generation has seen and undergone astronomical metamorphosis. From a time of zero power (electricity) to Instagram, from bullock carts to frequent flying miles – they have adapted! Adapted and thrived! And willing to contribute!
We find it difficult to cope with these changing times and our excuse for being aloof or Apathetic towards our kin, is that we are too busy and lack time and such. These excuses stand self-justified without introspection or feedback, save for those situations where our societal interactions need the real ‘up-gradation' with us running to our elders for advice!
From the birth of a child to weddings and funerals, our elders guide us – and indeed are our flat (flag) bearers.
Self-imposed discipline, societal integration and contributive behavioral order to our nation and the world is unconditionally provided by these elders... and funnily, I am too going to be there soon, if not by wisdom but surely by age.
I'd rather plunder in newer mistakes than repeat the same old, thus is taken care of by our elders. Invaluable are their contributions and hence, invaluable is their position in our world.
“I know not where I shall be for I know not where I have been, alas, I know not where I am and what I do?!” let me begin by knowing, and slowly but surely ‘doing.’
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