The age-old problem — Is there an answer?
In our increasingly youth orientated society, old people are all too often ignored, forgotten and in many cases alone for most of their days.
Almost all families experience the situation and everyone dreads it — the day the phone rings to tell us our elderly parent has had a fall or a ‘funny turn’ and is in hospital. The circumstances can vary. It may not be our parent, but an elderly relative, the problem may come out of the blue like a fall or stroke, or it might be something more gradual, such as arthritis, blindness or growing mental confusion.
Whatever the cause, the consequences can be far-reaching. We have to face the fact that a parent or a favourite aunt or uncle is no longer capable of leading a fully independent life. That too, in turn, raises the agonising question: where should they be cared for? This is by no means a hypothetical dilemma. The number of aged is increasing rapidly and is projected to rise in the next 40 years. The number of over-80s will increase by 60 percent. At the same time the working population — those who care for the elderly is expected to shrink.
In some cultures, the family automatically look after their own, but this is far from the case in the West, where not only extended family, but even the nuclear family is becoming a thing of the past. So how can the dilemma be resolved? Few people actually plan to end their days in a home, but no one wants to become a burden on their family either. For some, the choices can be discussed, for others, sadly it is already too late.
There can also be a sense of guilt as an elderly parent becomes more immobile, or forgets to turn off the stove once too often or starts wandering out of the house. Sometimes there are huge emotional dilemmas. Often the family have lived in their home for years and in the past they have expressed the fact that they never want to move. But, is it feasible and practical to follow their wishes?
There are no easy answers. Especially if relationships have not been great in the past. There is no way that having your elderly parent or in-law living in your home is going to improve that. People do not get nicer when they are ill. Caring is an intensely personal thing and a lot of hard work.
There are other options. Home care services are available to individuals to remain in their own home, if that is what they want. These can range from simple aids such as wheel ramps and bath grab rails to facilities such as home helps and meals on wheels. There are also a number of professional services that can be accessed to assist in preparing to host an elderly person at home, such as occupational therapist who will be able to advise on safety features and how to ensure that the living is easy for the aged. Social work services can also enhance the well-being of the person living at home. Most important is to ensure that there is good supervision of the carer and that there is back-up in the event that the carer is unavailable for any reason.
In some instances sheltered housing is an opportunity. This is a halfway house between home and residential care which may fit the bill for active older people who wish to retain their independence with added security and companionship of other residents. Unfortunately they are few and far between, but, in reality, are a good alternative to living alone.
Residential care offers the kind of care that would be given by a caring relative. This includes help with washing, dressing, toilet needs and eating and can also offer nursing in times of illness.
Nursing homes offer 24-hour care by qualified nursing and auxiliary staff. Someone who requires this type of care would often have mild to severe mental confusion, poor or non-existent mobility and most probably be incontinent.
It is important not to be dogmatic about which type of care is best for a particular individual, although clearly the greater the disability, the more likely they are to require residential or home care. The overriding principle is that the wishes of the individual should be paramount wherever possible.
Clearly most people would prefer to stay in their own homes. It is important that one does not put their heads in the sand. Families should start planning well in advance. In many cases, the role of the carer creeps up slowly, starting perhaps, with shopping for an elderly relative who lives nearby and then, if they have a fall, for example, going in three or four times a day to check that all is well. To the young and even the middle-aged, old age is something we never quite believe will happen to us — whether we like it or not, it comes to us all and ignoring the needs and rights of senior citizens is foolishly short sighted
So, before any of this happens, it is a good idea to discuss the options with the person and other family members and it is important to remember that you don’t have to be the carer — look for the best options for those you love.
Diana Sochen Executive Director
SOCIAL AND PERSONAL
Hearty mazeltov is extended on the following happy occasions:
Denise Bernstein — great grandson
Sadie Graziani — great granddaughter
David and Diana Sochen — grandson
Liz and Selwyn Kantor — grandson
Yvette Zive — grandson
Dody Davis — grandson
Randall Sher —daughter
Paula Goldblatt — 90
Denise Lipschitz — 80
Carol Schonberg — 85
We extend our sincere condolences to our members who have lost family members:
Rosebeth and Hymie Becker — Brother
Herbert Hirsch — Wife
We extend condolences to the family of members who have recently passed away
We welcome new members to the CJSA family:
Michael and Gayle Blumenthal, Diana Head, Noreen Goetz, Deborah Hayes, Eldred and Eva Polikoff, Tina Phillips, David and Elaine Scher, Angela Troward, Lynne Van Der Merwe, Lynne Voges, Lillian Wasserson, Trienie Weymar, Joan Workington.
Click here to visit the Cape Jewish Seniors Association website
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