where trouble was needed

July 10, 2012

Do not go gently

Filed under: Provocations — Aravinda @ 8:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Utterly heartbreaking, is all I could say after reading Martin Bayne’s article in the Washington Post, A man depicts the often grim atmosphere in assisted living facilities. This is the first time I have heard first-hand about the experience – WHY? Would AARP magazine have considered publishing such an article? What magazine would? It is perhaps rare for those in assisted living to be able to write an article, and after getting assistance with eating, taking medicine and going to the bathroom, probably it is too much for them to ask the staff for assistance putting their thoughts onto paper.

I see comments from people saying that their parents are happy in Assisted Living, why should I disbelieve them? But there aren’t any positive comments from the people living there. No comments at all – don’t the assisted living centers provide online access to the Washington Post?

As Arundhati Roy once asked Bhaiji Bhai,

Bhaiji Bhai, when will you get angry? When will you stop waiting? When will you say “That’s enough!” and reach for your weapons whatever they may be?

But indeed, what weapons do those in assisted living have?

In India people get very bent out of shape and shocked at the idea that people in America have no family values and put their elderly in nursing homes. But I have seen the elderly suffer in India too. True, the expectation is that the children look after their parents in their old age, but what happens if they don’t? Those who can afford to hire help at home do, but what about those who can’t? And what if the hired help doesn’t really care about them either – or worse, takes advantage of them? Newspapers regularly crimes against the elderly.

I have seen it first-hand in the villages – when surveying the poorest of the poor it was abundantly clear that the elderly were worst off.    Harsh Mander has written about it in In the age of neglect (The Hindu, May 19, 2012)

In one village, Kotipalli I had a chance to see a group of elderly  started a collective lunch program – the transformation in their lives was dramatic – the same women who earlier looked blank were now in command, no longer waiting for things to happen. The only outside help was a room rented by AID-India and food grains collected from the villagers. They cooked, served and cleaned up themselves.

Perhaps they do not live long enough to get the kind of illnesses those in western Assisted Living Facilities have. I have seen elderly people who did require assistance, but only in urban homes, and they lived with their children or other family members. Most of these elderly would not consent to have hired help take them to the bathroom, etc but at least their children could hire help for other housework and thus absorb the workload of assisting the elders. One imagines that being at home, and with their children and grandchildren would have slowed their deterioration though I don’t know how one would do a controlled study on that.

Even in Lage Raho Munna Bhai when Atmaram, the newest entry into the Old Folks Home, describes the heartless manner in which his son came to leave him at the home, the rest of the inmates ask him how long he is going to dwell on this sob story and urge him to let it go. You could imagine them saying, just as the author does, “you are among friends now.”
art by Johanna Goodman/The Washington Post July 10 2012.

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