Ideas: Are we treating the elderly the right way?

I was reading this fiction book by one of my favourite author, and this particular story was about how the two sisters wanted to literally get rid of their half-blinded father because they could not tolerate his weirdly dysfunctional behaviour. As their father aged, he started becoming paranoid, way too needy and sometimes he would scream at the top of his lungs. Most importantly, he was unable to take care of himself. The two daughters could not take that mess any longer and even came up with strategic plans to poison their father. I know this sounded quite ridiculous to kill your biological father just because he is old, and just having “old people syndrome”.

I could understand how the two girls felt about taking care of their father. He wasn’t supposed to behave this way, which reminds me of my grandmother. Whenever I watch my grandma painfully gets out of bed just to go to the toilet (which took her quite some time to get from her room to the toilet) while her face grimace slightly, my heart aches. I remembered that when I was younger, my grandma was this lady who hated staying at home and hence I seldom see her during the day. She loves hanging out with her friends, chit-chatting and shopping. But ever since she had a major fall several years back, her health deteriorates and she had no choice but to give up what she enjoys. Sometimes I could hear her weeping in her room several times a day but refused to tell me the reason. It is also really difficult to communicate with her nowadays, given that I have to repeat umpteenth times to get her to understand my intentions.

Ageing is hard for the elderly, too.

As far as everyone dreads it, as people aged, they are faced with the realisation as well as the loss of the basic staples of life. They have to painfully accept their inability to do simple things such as cooking for themselves or even standing on their own feet. The things that they were once able to do it without any difficulty have become a burden to their caregivers. They have lost their independence even on the most basic thing, and worst still, the need to depend on someone else to do what they value as an important and simple task. As our parents or grandparents become older, our roles have reversed. They used to be the ones guiding us with their loving hands as we had our first steps. They used to be the ones feeding us, wiping our mouths and clothes if our meal has ended up everywhere. They were also our pillars of support while we gear our way through adulthood.

We have to understand that there is no way they can control their behaviour. It is really terrifying when you have lost the ability to control what you want, how you move and even how you behave.

People with dementia could not change, stop, or adjust their behaviour. Dementia is caused by the damage to brain cells, which interferes with the ability of the brain cells to communicate. Hence, people with dementia (often due to old age), has memory loss, inability to control their emotions or behaviours, which affected their daily lives.

Alzheimer’s disease is the greatest fear to the elderly. It is the most common form of dementia, and there is no cure for it. Sometimes I would eavesdrop conversations of my uncles and aunties and came to realise that preventing Alzheimer’s is one of the common topics. They are afraid of being the burden to their children and the society, but there is nothing they can really do about it except to keep an active lifestyle.

Preserving dignity for the elderly is the most important thing.

Are we treating our seniors with the respect that they deserve? Even though we often have seen old people behaving like a child – they cry because you have not gotten their favourite food for them, or behaving in a stubborn manner, we should not treat them like a child! I believe that we often end up like how we just started out because that is how God want us to be. We started out lying on the bed unable to communicate, we throwing tantrums because we were unable to cope effectively with the psychological pain, and we required adults to feed us mashed up food and dressed us. It is pretty much the same when we are old.

Yet, the major difference lies in the dignity.

Sadly, we have forgotten about this in today’s society. I understand that we often address the seniors as “cute” because of the way they behave or react to certain things. But they are not cute like stuffed toys or pets! I find it humiliating to use the term “cute” to describe the seniors and to treat them as they are. Honestly, even for me, I felt offended if someone addresses me as “cute” because I feel that they are objectifying me, even though I clearly know that it is not what they meant.

Sometimes, we have the tendency to regard the elderly as weak and unworthy of attention. We often think that they are unable to make rational decisions, so we make decisions without taking their preferences into considerations. We subconsciously address them as if we are talking to a child, with unnecessary simplified words, or speak loudly without a justified reason. Sometimes it is not because they could not hear properly, but it is because they take a longer time than us to register the things you have said. Often, we speak negatively about them as if they are not around, or a human being without feelings. We have to remember that they are knowledgeable people who have gone through so much more than we did. Even if their bodies and minds are slowly tearing them apart, they still have great wisdom to impart.

The way society treats the elderly.

Once a person reaches the age of 60, the society’s attitude towards them changes. It is a harsh truth, yet we are unable to avoid it. Once they retire, their status changed. They are no longer the one who contributes to the society. They are now a burden or cost to the society. I have come across this sentence: “Once an individual is of no future use to the economic wheel then they can be cast aside.” Is it true that if we have the choice, we would rather spend all of our time on our children, but not even half an hour in a week just to visit our parents or grandparents?

According to The Telegraph, too many older people felt that their basic human rights and human dignity are undermined in situations where they are treated as objects rather than people. The poor frail elderly people were being “passed like parcels” between agencies. I admit that I am not able to comment much about this, but the elderly are humans too and they should receive human rights and should not be abused or neglected no matter how troublesome it is for the caretakers.

Sometimes, all they need is just our care and concern.

I believe that the elderly will not ask for much. The reason they seemed to be overly attached or sensitive because you are the only one that can depend on. Once they lose you, they lost themselves too. Just because they are old, that does not mean they deserve lesser attention than a child. In fact, we should give more of our attention to them.

So, do you think you are treating the elderly the right way?

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