By Pratik Goyal:
There was a time in India when long life was a privilege denied to many, but as advancements were made in field of medicine, prolonged life was bestowed on the world. The average age of population increased throughout the world with obvious exception such as under-developed countries. India, too, has been a beneficiary of such medical advancements which resulted in increase in average age from 41 in 1951 to 64 today.
But with prolonged life comes old age. Old age brings a host of age-related diseases. As age increases a person becomes incapacitated. As a result, dependence on another person becomes inevitable. And this has given way to a rise to nursing homes, retirement homes or care homes, as they are so frequently called. The need and necessity of Old age homes has been quite prevalent culture in western societies. Old Age Homes was an alien concept in India and never would have anyone imagined that India will also need these Nursing Homes one day. Currently these Old Age homes are facing quite a load of problems from understaffing to unskilled staffing to inadequate facilities. All these factors are contributors to the biggest issue of these Old Age homes, namely ‘Elder Abuse’. While the term is self explanatory it should be clear that this include not only physical harm or abuse but also a mental one.
Elderly residents of nursing homes are often frail and vulnerable. Dependent on their caretakers for their food, housing and health needs, they deserve the best care possible. Our elderly population residing in these Old Age homes face physical abuse or mental abuse. They and their needs are often neglected by the staff, which in many cases is unskilled or not trained properly. Many ‘caregivers’ in such Homes financially exploit the elders. Such has become the plight of these Nursing Homes, which shouldn’t be there in the first place. The times are changing so fast that Old age homes have become a necessity in the present day scenario as the younger generation do not have the time or, in many cases, the resources to meet the needs of their elders. The role of families as a social safety net for the elderly is fast eroding. Seniors who are neglected by their families often become vulnerable. Such neglect led Government of India to pass “The maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens bill 2006”, which makes it imperative for adult children to look after their parents. A dark day in the land of Ram.
Old age homes should be considered only as a secondary option. Elders in the family are definitely an asset. It is they who can impart the much needed ethical values and code of conduct in the younger generation. Old age homes as an option should be considered only for the betterment of the senior citizens by way of better physical and mental status, greater possibility for social bonding etc. Under no pretext should the aged be made to feel that they are a burden and hence turned away. Last but not the least, even if Old Age Homes is used as an option, it should be made absolutely sure that they are not subjected to any neglect or abuse of any kind and that best facilities and care is made available to them.