Do you have aging parents? Then consider yourself blessed. It means that you are in the prime of your life, and have already accomplished a lot of what you had been dreaming since your childhood. On top, you still have your loving parents whom you have known since you were born.
But never take this blessing for granted. Many are not as lucky as you. Many may not be having any parents alive, and a few may have only one of the parents alive. As time goes on, your blessings may run out. I have known many who always had this regret, "I wish I had done this ..." for their parent. However, one would only say that this is not their fault. Everyone thinks their parents will live forever; at least as long they themselves are alive. The fact is, we have seen our parents ever since we have been alive. The thought that they can leave us, never enters our mind. Let the truth be told, however harsh and heart-breaking it may be for you. Unless you yourself meet an untimely end; your parents will depart from this world before your eyes!
If you have realized this and taken it bravely, then NOW is the time to do something for them. Never postpone your solemn duty of caring for them; because you may never get the opportunity again. So, what can we do for our aging parents? Below is a brief list that may serve as a reminder, an agenda and a To-Do list.
1. Give Them Your Time
Aged parents feel neglected and unwanted. As senior citizens, they feel as if they are like products which have passed their expiry dates. This terrible feeling is more reinforced, when they find that many of their friends and peers have passed away. The feeling of loneliness can be killing. Find TIME for them. It is the most precious gift that you can give them every day. Remember the times when they send so much time on you. You were their indulgence. They gave up many of their life's enjoyment so that they can spend more time with you. You own needs were very visible, and you would not have been what you are today, if they have not given you their time, often sacrificed their sleep, rest and comfort. Sit with them, eat with them, talk to them, and take them around; is the minimum caring you can do. Often aged parents, after retirement from jobs, are restricted to their rooms. It is just like putting them in a prison cell. Caring for them means making they feel ‘at home’ and that they are still an integral part of your family.
2. Taking Care of Their Finances
Senior citizens no longer continue to earn or get paid employment after retirement. Your parents may not be earning anything now, yet the cost of living continues unabated. In fact, they may be on the higher side, if cost of healthcare, health food supplements and medicines are added. It would be good if they have a house of their own. You have to see that they do not face any financial hardship. The house can be put on mortgage, if fund position is tight. It will give them the required liquidity to manage their affairs. Your siblings can chip in, if they are good children. Sharing costs would reduce the financial burden. Do whatever you can, but never let your parents face any financial hardship at this age. Remember the times when they did whatever they could, so that you can have what you wanted or needed badly.
3. Caring For Their Health Issues
As they advance in age, your parents will be facing an increasing number of health issues. It can be anything from arthritis or cataract to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Senior citizens may not have anyone else in this world to turn to. Some retirement plans and pension schemes include life-long medical care which includes the spouse. Check for any such policies. More than anything else, during their illness, your mere presence with your parents will give them great comfort. Do your best to ease their sufferings in these sunset years of their life.
4. Give Them Your Emotional Support
It might come as a surprise to you, that the ones who supported you emotionally when you were young; will actually need emotional support themselves. But it is true. As senior citizens your parents may feel helpless and frustrated with their illnesses; and lonely because they may have lost their entire elder or peer near relatives and friends. As their very own blood, your emotional support will be a lifeline to them. It will fill the void they feel in their life. Do not miss this chance to repay your blood debt.
5. Old Age Home or Paid Health Caring
In India, it is customary to have the parents in the family. However, times are changing. Many old age parents have their children working abroad. There is no one to take care of them. This situation can be disastrous, when any of them falls sick or becomes a victim of a mishap or accident. NGO’s or paid care givers have to be employed to take care of them. With the risks of theft and mugging of senior citizens on the rise, the children living overseas find it safer and more convenient to put the parents in old age homes.
These are just the most important points to be taken care of, and only illustrative. There are as many ways to take care of old age parents as they thoughtfully did for their children decades ago. It is not just a noble humane responsibility, but also an experience that is very warm, satisfying and fulfilling. You will remember this for long and feel thankful when your parents are no longer with you. Someday in not very distant future, when your own time comes, you will also be in their shoes.