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Caregiver's Diaries

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How do you manage your hectic schedule with the needs of ailing, aging family members? Joanne Pereira speaks to a few people who have coped with the challenge

You are juggling the daily routine and have this emergency call to deal with just as you are about to phone your aged mom to check if she’s okay.  The gas knob has been left on; your 80-year-old dad has left for his morning walk and has not returned for lunch; your mom refuses to believe that adult diapers make life easier; your mother-in-law insists that the perfect woman needs no maid and has slipped and hurt herself... Sounds familiar? 

Longevity brings its own challenges.  Seniors do not want to impose on family members.  Loneliness, obstinacy or attention seeking are some of the emotional challenges that accompany the world of tending to seniors.  They are bewildered with the shooting costs of essentials and medication.  For care-givers it is heart-wrenching to see loved ones that have hand-held us turn so helpless.

You are not alone, however; meet some other people who have been on this journey and come out stronger.

Meher Heroyce Moos

One of my benchmarks on positive caregiving back in the ’90s is Meher Heroyce Moos. Meher, who was with Air India, took her parents to visit about 30 countries over three decades, and though it was wheelchair travel, there were many happy memories. She says her deep attachment to her father and vice versa made their time together a joy.  “My Dad said that after I married he would live with me.  So I decided not to marry.  Imagine my Mum having to move even if she did not want to.  They kept perfect health. I lost her five days after she was diagnosed with leukaemia and Dad five years later.  I made sure I kept them mentally engaged, quizzing them on his background, names of Parsi girls and boys, capitals of countries, currencies and so on.  His 90th birthday, combined with my 50th at the Rooftop at Oberoi Towers was a much talked about event. It was never labour, just love.”

Tanvi Phanse

Tanvi Phanse, a student appearing for her Company Secretary exams says: “My granny for me is one of the loveliest persons on earth. As my mother is a working woman, my granny took care of me and my brother. Both of us used to trouble her a great deal, and she would get irritated. When I was in my 11th standard she suddenly got a stroke and was hospitalised. At that time we thought we would lose her, but she survived and till date, over the last five years, she has been in the same state.

“Earlier she used to lose control, shout and often was in and out of hospital. Our family had a tough time but we managed with the help of nurses and maids as it was difficult to look after her the entire day. She was completely bed-ridden and was unable to perform her day-to-day activities. Nights were horrible as she would keep awake and grumble all the time. She needed someone to sleep with her and I was the only person very close to her, so automatically I had to do this duty despite help being kept to look after her.

“Slowly the night nurse was withdrawn as she was completely dependent on me. During the day, the help used to manage her and at night I started to babysit her; now she was my ‘granny baby’. Feeding her at night, changing her clothes, diaper, giving medicines, changing the bedsheet all became part of my work and I managed it automatically along with my studies. I have very good support from my family looking after my granny and we all take responsibility for her in turn. Granny is our family member and it is our duty to look after her till the end. She is very sweet and responds to our love and care. We all love her very much.”

HOW DO YOU COPE?

Sonali Gupta, clinical psychologist who practises at Khar and South Mumbai, is frequently consulted by caregivers across various age groups. Says Sonali, “It is very common for caregivers to have compassion fatigue. Caregiving can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Often with longevity of life expectation you have 60 year-olds caregiving 90 year-olds. It is very important for caregivers not to feel guilty about fatigue. You have to remember, as in the airline drill, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you attend to others. This is easier said. It takes a lot before we can consciously imbibe self-care. I suggest that caregivers choose to belong to a social support group. Factors like being mindful of how much can they do with limited resources play up.”

How much can you stretch finances? It is essential that you get a cover to prepare for contingencies. The vigilance of the IDA has ensured that policies in force continue till the lifetime of the person insured. The proposed Pradhan Mantri scheme is likely to redefine the benchmark leading to macro negotiation of prohibitive costs of procedures. It would be prudent to anticipate a monthly cost of around Rs 30,000- 40,000 at least for those dealing with long-term ailments.

The key is equipping yourself with medical insurance when you are in the prime of health when underwriting is much easier to facilitate. The bad news is that mental health is not covered; at the most the facility could be utilised under the general limit capped, depending on the policy.

Chinmaya Gandhi, proprietor,MPG founded in 1895, talks about how medical insurance is at a nascent stage in India. “Medical policies cover hospitalisation, they are restrictive. Themajor part of medical expenditure particularly for seniors is Out Patient (OPD) related, almost 70 per cent of the cost. One has to take into account that medical inflation is 15-17 per cent pa. It is important to get a cover that meets with your ability and lifestyle to prepare yourself for the future.”

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