Having spent a few decades taking care of elderly family members and several patients , my experiences have changed my perspective of elder care over the years .
With modern medicine focusing as always on prolonging life with cutting edge advancements, quality of life of elders with residual disability is often the casualty. Few elders have spoken to their families about how they wish to be medically managed when the need arises. In such cases, whether the person ends up in the icu, hooked on to the ventilator or on lesser interventions, depends entirely on the family’s wishes.
There is the ever vacillating family, torn between doing ‘all it can’ and ‘ all it should’ in spite of continued guidance and handholding. Needless to say , we get to see more and more families not willing to subject their critically ill elders to prolonged isolation and interventions when quality of life is a distant dream in a hospital setting. And then there are elders who have clearly spelt out that their final exit must be at home amidst their loved ones. However, elders do despair when confronted with disabilities such as pains , imbalance , difficulties with getting around , digestion woes , insomnia and memory issues setting in and disrupting their lives.
Catching the morning sun in a well lit part of the house while sipping on a hot cup of tea or coffee does a lot for the moods and the bones.For the more able , a morning walk , taking in the sounds and smells of the outdoors in the company of fellow walkers , is a good start to the day.For the less abled, gentle rehabilitation in the form of physical exercises , massages , speech and memory exercises , yogasanas and pranayama go a long way in enabling independance and enthusing them. A daily activity schedule which could include chanting, colouring , listening to music , helping with simple chores at home and family members chatting over a meal with family or an occasional drive , would make life less weary.
With some guidance , many of them are able to use gadgets and happily browse , chat , solve sudoku and crosswords. Setting up the house to enable easy mobility and safety with antiskid mats , grab bars and stable chairs instills confidence and encourages independance.
Gentle measures which focus on a good quality of life would be the sensible approach to address chronic conditions, in the sunset years.