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Old Age Home? Have a heart!

Discussion in 'Cheeniya's Senile Ramblings' started by Cheeniya, Jun 10, 2007.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Once an ardent devotee of Paramacharya lamented to the Great Sage about how his prayers remaining unanswered by Goddess Meenakshi. The Sage replied
    " Never suspect your mother's intentions. When you were newborn, did she feed you, keep you clean and healthy because you asked her to do such things? Till you became old enough to think for yourself and make demands on her, you had completely entrusted yourself to her care. And when you started making demands as a groiwn up child, she conceded only such demands which in her judgement were good for you and declined the rest.. You even got angry with her and hated her whenever she declined your demands though such feelings were momentary. To our Goddess we are all children in a cradle. Leave yourself completely in Her. She knows what to give and when to give. Only She knows what is good for us"

    I have referred to this episode to focus on the role played by our mothers in shaping our lives. It is highly significant that the Paramarcharya has likened our mothers to Goddes Herself in order to explain the relationship between God and Man. What more need I say?

    A few days back a question was raised by Priya on Old Age Home or living with children. I went through the thread and the FBs carefully and as a man who has seen 64 summers, I have a few thoughts to share with you all and for convenience, I have decided to present it through my sub forum.

    There is a well-run Old Age Home near my residence in Chennai called 'Vishranthi' I visit the Home regularly to interact with the aged residents there who are mostly ladies. I even arrange regular musical concerts and bhajans for them. Mrs. Savithri Vaidyanathan, who is in charge of the Home , spares no efforts to make the lives of the inmates as comfortable as possible. The ambience of the Home is very good and the food tasty and easy on the digestive system of the old people. At a first glance, anyone would think that there is nothing for anyone to complain about. But the truth is different.

    I have interacted with most of the ladies and found that what they need is not living in comfort or good food. They need people to share their feelings particularly when they are in a nostalgic mood. They need people to talk to and be with. One lady even told me once that she always looked forward to my visits not for the gifts but only for the time that I could spend with them.. i talk to them about their childhood, their children and their present life. The way they unwind leaves me deeply moved everytime. The standard question that everyone asks me is that whether I could communicate with their children and find out how they were.

    My mother is 95 and is living with me since 1965. She is almost crippled, a tiny bundle of bones, severely restricted in her movements but with a keen memory and is well aware that a call from above might come anytime. She is in deep thought most of the time though no one knows what is going through her mind. She is unaware of the various complications of modern life and the only question that she keeps asking everyone is "Did you have your food?" though our own minds would be far from food being besotted with greater problems of life. To her I, a grandfather of three, am still a toddler in cradle who needs to be fed regularly and on time!

    But what stirs me to my very core is the way she comes alive and her eyes sparkle like the brightest stars of Heaven when she beholds her great grand children returning from school. I can clearly see what joyous feelings fill her heart on this daily reunion with the great grandcildren and how grateful to God she feels for this blessing.

    My mind races back to the time when as a toddler I used to be carried by her to the school in spite of the fact that I was tall and strong enough to walk on my own! I remember how she used to keep awake well past midnight when my brother and I prepared for our exams as a moral support. She was not literate enough to teach us our lessons but she did whatever that was possible for her. During my difficult childhood days, when my father had to struggle to make both ends meet, she saw to it that my brother and I never felt the ramifications of poverty and kept our stomachs full sacrificing her own food.

    I can never think of a way to show her my gratitude adequately and hence am extremely thankful to God that I have the means to keep her with me in a happy frame of mind. The sparkle that I see in her eyes when she is with her great grandchildren is the only consolation that I have of being able to pay my debt of gratitude albeit marginally. I know for sure that this what is keeping her alive. If I had left her in a old age home, she would have possibly died a decade back.

    Coming back to the Old Age Home, I agree that the modern life style and the need for most of us to migrate to far off places to make a decent living make it imperative to find an alternative for our parents to carry on with their lives. Old Age Homes are very handy too but when you are forced to take that step, make sure that you are in constant touch with them. Have someone locally to visit them regularly to apprise them of your well being. Maybe give them a mobile phone and talk to them as often as possible. Let them continue to feel your presence through these means.

    I know of cases in Vishranthi where the children have left a small amount of money with the Home for the cremation of their parents should they die before their children's next visit to Chennai is due probably during the Music Festival! I was appalled to see a letter from one such insensitive person saying that it would be highly impossible for him to fly back home for the cremation and it would be enough to keep him informed of any such eventuality.

    Please remember that the human cycle is not totally independent of what preceded us or what will come after. Even when Saddam Hussein was hanged, the humanity rose in revolt against the indignified way he was hanged. Dont we owe more to our parents?
     
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  2. chitrajan

    chitrajan Bronze IL'ite

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    Dear Sr.,

    A heavy subject!! You are talking about leaving parents/old people in Old Age homes but what about the people where the parents are hounded between the siblings?

    How do children expect that their parents be self sufficient and strong and able even in their old age? Dont they realise that whatever they have achieved is all because of the sacrifice made the parents at an age when they would have also loved to have enjoyed the luxuries in life. Another set of children are those who think providing money is equal to taking care of parents exempting them of their presence -- some of such children are staying in the same town or country also.

    People know that their children are watching them how they treat their parents, but fail to realise that they may also get the same treatment or may be worse when they grow up. I think the movie Baghban was enlightening on this aspect.

    If we as children treat our own parents as a burden, then what are we achieving in life? Are physical comforts so important to us that we treat our parents as physical discomforts?
     
  3. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Cheeniya,

    You touched a subject that has been playing a big part in my thoughts these days.
    Cheeniya, what you have written is very true. But do all parents have a son like Cheeniya ? You and your mother are fortunate people. You still have a mother, that in itself is a special blessing and you have the fortune of taking care of her and cherishing her. Beauty is, you realize this. Your mother is doubly fortunate to have a son who is so sensitive and sensible like you.
    But all instances are not like that. Life is complicated. I am one of those who live in far away shores, rightly or wrongly. My ilk is growing by leaps and bounds. We are prisoners of our own making. I know many who have convinced their parents to come abroad and live with them. Many do and I have personally seen and know of such parents. Some are okay, some are unhappy to live in strange circumstances with total dependency on their children.
    Whatever, today's family scene is changing. What may apply to a person's morality, may not apply to the practicality. What if living with the offspring is not a bed of roses? Let us not indulge in the blaming game. For whatever reasons, if such living together is causing pain which may not be visible outwardly and if such happiness is eating into the longevity of one's life, then, is it worth it?
    What if the parent resides in a well equipped and well run home and also the offspring visits and takes care and does the decent thing under the circumstances? Is that not a more intelligent solution to everyone concerned?
    I know, advocating old age homes to our parents 'sounds' heartless. But given the changing times and scenario, may be we are opting for the better solution?
    I really don't know, I am going through it in my mind and want to be objective about it and not be swayed by age old sentiments. Right or wrong?
    Cheeniya, I want a very frank and honest answer from you. Would you be just as caring and loving if it was your mother/father-in-law who was living with you? If you say yes, I wont be surprised. If you say no, then it is food for thought again.

    L, Kamla
     
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  4. meenaprakash

    meenaprakash Silver IL'ite

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    Hello Cheeniya,

    A heavy subject indeed !! Very emotional and sentimental one too !!
    But let us look at the issue in more practical sense.
    Except in human race, no animal / mammal will tend to aged / sick ones. This is the realisation of "survival of fittest" scenario.
    But procreation is natural and sometimes accidental. No child asked any parent that it needs to be born. But once they are born, tending them is again a natural, hormonal, social and cultural obesience. Parents do that for their own gratification and not the child's. Reminds me again of Swami Vivekananda asking Rockfeller to THANK him for accepting the money as donation and not vise versa.
    We as parents are thankful that we enjoyed all the niceties with our children until they grew up, developed feathers and are on their own. Why make them guilty ??
    What is their obligation in this that they have to do in return ??
    If we are smart and practical, we will make sure that we are not a burden to them in our old age and we seek our own ways of spending it.
    Me and my hubby swear so many times that we will never want our children either to be with us when they are grown up nor we will live with them.
    Day to day interaction with youngsters is a pain in the .... probably from generation gap / different set of thinking and mindset.
    We should leave them on their own, to fend for themselves and procreate if they feel like it and enjoy the proceedings. Why should we be in their midst ??
    Meeting once in a while is more appropriate than living together. I cannot even dream of it, and is impossible if they start throwing restrictions and laws in my own house. Why give such an opportunity at all and then blame everybody and fate ?? We are seriously looking right now on which old age home and where would be most comfortable for us in our old age. we would like to hang out with each other and no one else. Especially relatives and children.

    This subject is more of an emotional and social issue than practical when it comes to daily interaction and adjustments. If you put your emotions in the back seat and allow judgement and reasoning to sit in front, you would probably make the same decision like me.
     
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  5. Sriniketan

    Sriniketan IL Hall of Fame

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    I totally agree with Meenaprakash and Kamla.
    I also told my husband that we should not expect our children to look after us when we are old. If they do look after us, fine, otherwise be prepared and we should not worry about it. for that reason, we should be hale and healthy. It is better late than never. We should make any lifestyle changes now so that we should not be a burden to ourselves and to others around us, during our later years. We don't know what is in store for us and it doesn't sound good on our part, if we don't take any initiative. From my point of view, we should not expect any return from our children for the sacrifices we make. Because, we may be disappointed, which is the result of ourselves making appointment with the future, regarding this matter.
    The above paragraph is purely connected to the future senior citizens like us.
    But the next paragraph is connected to the present senior citizens.
    I also agree with Cheeniya and Chitrajan in this matter.
    We take care of my mother-in-law who is 83 years old. She has 2 other sons living in US.
    It is already embedded in our mind that taking care of seniors is good for the family and also for the future generations. We teach the future generations the basis of our culture. Take care of fellow humans. It is said that we should take care of them when they are alive and even after the departure, we should do 'shhardham'. We need their blessings for the well-being of our children.
    We can hear people saying 'give what the old people want. they may not live longer and why have the guilt later on for not looking after them'.
    Some of the seniors are not so cooperative. They don't understand the present situations and they dwell only on their past experiences and knowledge. for these kind of people, wherever they stay ,they cannot adjust themselves.
    For those people who adjust themselves, they can thrive in any situations. Luckily for Cheeniya. I think, his mother is of the 2nd type I had menitoned.
    Many are not so lucky (include me in this.)
    I am the only daughter to my parents. they live alone in Chennai. We asked them to come over here. they refuse. we even asked them to come over here for the summer vacation. They refuse to that also. As my girls are in their teen years I send them to their grandparents house for the vacation. They are with them the whole vacation. I also go there with my son, who is in his pre-teen years. Atleast that will make them happy.
    my conclusion is 'Do your duty and don't expect the same from the futute generations'. (doesn't it sound like I am preaching Bhagawad Gita? Maybe it is effect of myself reading our dear Chithra Madam's Bhagawad Gita posting.) If we adjust ourselves to the everchanging world ( to the extent we can) we can avoid such situations in our lives.

    Sriniketan
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2007
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  6. sudhak90

    sudhak90 Senior IL'ite

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    an intense topic especially in today's world of nuclear families.

    parents should not expect children to look after them when they are old, true, but tell me which parent wont' feel better if he/she has to spend their last leg of life with their loving children?

    as far as possible, as children its our duty to take care of our parents or in-laws------in the best possible way.
    for it's because of them you or yor spouse is better off today.
    parents should set an example for their children by acting this way.

    hats off to cheeniya who finds time to spend with his mom at this ripe old age.

    here i should give credit to my husband who left me with my parents when my father fell sick-i have no brothers..... i stayed on with them for3+years, till my father's death while my husband took up a travelling job those 3 years.

    today when i look back i feel satisfied, that i had been of some emotional support to my parents during their last days. i remember my husband telling u stay on or else u'll regret!
    how true his words were!

    sudha
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2007
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  7. Lavanya

    Lavanya Bronze IL'ite

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    Its a complex issue to dwell on, to say the least. One cannot just come to a conclusion as to which way is the right way & totally condemn another option. It depends on each one's scenario. As others have mentionned besides the choice of the offspring its also a choice the parents have to make. In some scenarios living together can only breed contempt then may be its better to visit them on a regular basis & still be on good terms like Lakshmi's decision in the movie "Samsaram athu minsaram".

    Another scenario playing a role in parents care is when you have more than one kid & the parent favors living with one while that kid couldn't care less for their parents ("petha manam pithu, pillai manam kallu"). This isn't just seen on the tele... its all too common in life too. While some other parents can really become more aggressive & demanding as years go by & prefer their kids to follow their rules without realizing that the kids have their own 'nest' now. Then again there are other lovely parents who are not cared for & left to fend for themselves even when they physically cannot. But the most astounding parents that I've come across are the ones who said that they had kids & educated them ONLY 'coz they EXPECT their kids to provide them with a lavish life & be indebted to them. Well... it takes all sorts to make this world... doesn't it?

    But like some others have mentionned, my husband & I decided that we wouldn't want to live with our kids whatever happens - just so everyone will still have their own space. But I think these decisions gets more complicated when there's only 1 partner living after a certain time. Its in a way a curse for women in general, 'coz scientifically they outlast the men... may be wives shouldn't nag their hubbies n' shorten their lives!! :tongue

    My only prayer is that I don't live so long that people who may take care of me can't wait to see me move on!
     
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  8. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sri,

    This week's soulful post did touch me very deeply.

    Beware, brevity is not my forte.

    You & I are just a few of the senior citizens in this forum, with our mothers still alive.

    Being brought up & living in the conservative society of Chennai ( I guess it is the main reason !), I cannot accept leaving a parent in an old age home. I abhor the very thought that they will live in a place away from their family. It is not in our culture at all and whatever be the valid reason, one gives, it is not acceptable to me. I realise I am perhaps very old fashioned in my thoughts; but still cannot think of it.

    We now quote space-constraint as a reason. I am sure you are also living in a typical Chennai flat as I do. In spite of all the comforts the old age homes now povide, I feel they will still miss their family and will also get anxious, unnecessarily. Like you, I am a regular visitor to Vishranthi and when I go there, the way some of the old ladies hold my hands fondly as though I am their own daughter, my heart bleeds to think what they are missing. When I am ready to leave, I dare not look into their eyes, which convey so much of pain to me.

    Aware of all these developments, I think parents themselves now book or buy flats in places like Vanaprastham in Coimbatore. If all children are abroad, they prefer to live in such places more to enjoy community living with less hassels of house-keeping. These places have a more honourable "tag" than old age homes. But (only) in the Indian concept of life, sending a parent to an old age home is still not very acceptable to me. We can provide financially for ourselves for our old age, but will that fill up the emotional vacuum, likely to arise, I wonder ! In the case of either or survivor, will one be able to live independantly, if the life span is long ?

    Well, Sri, our mothers are comfortable in our homes. I wonder whether our children, though they adore us today,will give us the same treatment ! But I am sure, we must adjust a lot and however tempted, not give advice or interfere in our childrens personal lives ! With all good intentions, we utter something which they don't appreciate at all and that is how friction starts.
    The younger generation with thir busy life style, have less patience, can't help saying that.

    Your suggestion about keeping in constant touch with them in the old age home, through a mobile phone will definitely make them feel wanted, to a certain extent atleast.

    My appreciation goes more to your wife than to you - hats off (not that I wear hats !) to that wonderful lady, without whose whole hearted cooperation, you would'nt have been able to write this post about Amma. My namaskarams to Amma.

    Love,
    Chithra.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2007
  9. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Kamla,
    I just want to touch on this point.
    Now, in a few of my friends houses, this is happening.
    One of my friends, being the only daughter & her husband the only son, her father & his mother are all staying together with them. She says, since everybody realises that such a situation is unavoidable, they have all accepted it. She says the going is smooth.
    The same is the case with my next door-neighbour. The lady's father has been staying with them. He passed away when his son-in-law had gone abroad. The latter insisted that the cremation should be done only after he came. So the presnt day ice-box preservation was followed.
    These are instances when we must be just not human, but also "humane".
    Love,
    Chithra.






     
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  10. chitrajan

    chitrajan Bronze IL'ite

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    Dear Kamla,

    Just to mention a few people from my family also.

    My maternal grandmother, aged 85 is also taken care of 90 % of the time by my parents and I respect my father (aged 70) greatly for this action of his. Never have I heard a word from him against her or my grandfather also till he was alive.

    Also my youngest BIL (aged 36) is taking care of his parents in law as he would have done for his parents (unfortunately they are no longer alive). We belonging to a big family of 8 siblings are so very proud of him.

    These people are exceptions in a society which is hell bent on following the patriarchic way. I hope many others follow their examples and treat parents whether own or in laws more affectionately.

    Sorry, Sr. Sri, but I had to defend these people :-D
     
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