The journey to old age can be daunting for some people and their families. It changes them and forces them to see through different eyes as their senior family member ages and their health changes as well. In this guest post, we hear from an old age, father's son, who shares his new-found experiences and observations.
The Last Days
By Charanjit Singh Arora
The last days in old age are a unique experience in life. We can't experience our own last days objectively, as we are unable to think logically, due to weakened reflexes. We can educate ourselves by observing our parents and senior siblings, during their last days in old age. What are our necessities/priorities in old age? These are: cognitive ability, constipation-free life, dentures/healthy teeth, hearing aids, and specs. The priorities of younger age - entertainment, socializing, and shopping - are no longer applicable in old age. In our last days in old age we enter our second childhood. We are lonely as most of our contemporaries might have already left for their heavenly abodes. Onus lies on younger generation to make oldies feel important and 'wanted' in their lives.
Now, these are the final days of my father,
My 70 years of association with him is coming to an end,
It is a matter of weeks or couple of months.
Will he live, till 95 years?
Unlikely, a low probability!
What is vital in life at 94 years:
It is the lifeline of any relationship.
He has limited dementia.
At times, he mistakes me for one of his 'late' elder brothers.
At times, he refuses to identify our mother as his wife,
But he corrects himself, and starts laughing.
He remembers childhood days, school days, and his siblings,
But he can't co-relate geographical locations.
He recites religious scriptures, mathematical tables,
He remembers his associates during school, 8 decades ago and his job - construction of Bhakra and Pong Dams.
His room has: photographs of his mother, brothers, and a photo-collage of their married-life pictures from younger age till date.
Physical challenges can be met, in spite of all odds.
He had knees' arthritis for 3 years, and is bed-ridden for last one year,
He had urinary blockage for couple of years, and a catheter installed,
He is hard of hearing too,
But these problems look trivial,
Life carries on, in spite of all these.
The priorities of younger days: good dresses, food, entertainment,
Take a backseat.
* Handling 'constipation and poo' takes priority.
For dementia affected, oldies,
Ability to tell, 'Got to do potty', and, 'It is over', matters a lot.
The care-taker is happier.
Or else, there is mess all around:
The diaper may fail to contain 'poo',
Then the bed-sheets and pyjamas present a dirty view,
If there is dementia, the hands may intrude in the diaper,
Every caretaker dreads the scene.
It is second childhood.
Good management implies planning commode management.
Thus a devoted son/daughter can repay back their childhood gratitude.
* Swallowing ability - or else food or liquids are diverted towards lungs
* Specs are next, most important item, vital for viewing TV,
* Hearing aids/ears - communicating, and entertainment
* Dentures/teeth - vital for survival,
Thus in old age, the priorities change.
As the days pass, there are signs of weakening reflexes.
There is a sinking feeling for all life related activities.
There is a tendency to withdraw from society, social activities,
And decline in general enthusiasm for daily activities:
Club life, shopping, and entertainment.
He talks in sleep with his 'late' parents and siblings.
He yearns to meet them.
He prays to God, recites holy scriptures, and wants to see /meet Him.
Are these ritualistic outbursts of a conditioned-mind?
Whatever it is, conventional recital of scriptures had a positive impact.