Challenging times: Senior Citizen care.

Although the idea may sound quaint to some, having a senior citizen in your home is something unavoidable. Yes, it is burdensome. Yes, it is meaning frayed nerves. Yes, it means sacrificing your privacy. Yes, you should not expect any pay-back from your elderly parents…this is their time in the sun.

From the outset,let me explain, that there is no one who will understand the problems faced by the family when an elderly person is a permanent resident, unless he/she too is in a similar position. Elders grow even older, and with increasing age comes unexpected blows, in the form of health issues, visits to doctors, and mounting medical bills. Realize that no one from the extended family or even the closer family members will be there to pitch in. It’s a fact of life….no one wants to INVITE trouble!

Most articles on Senior Citizen care lay stress on the fact that it is an honourable task that you have undertaken, to look after an old person. Few go on to explain what measures you can take to avoid those inevitable moments of depression, craziness, and having the blues, whilst you’re at the job.

Being a seasoned caretaker of a permanent live-in elderly in-law for the past two decades, I can only say this: forget your Ego, forget your happiness. Look at the long term benefits only. Do you really want to ignore an old person’s problems by staying away and pretending to have fun? In that case, you are only playing with fire. Wandering away from your duties will inadvertently harm you. Your house may be robbed. The elderly, with their lack of presence of mind, may either leave the house premises, and roam unattended, or leave the gas or geyser on, leading to gravely dangerous situations.

Be kind to the elderly, even though it may raise your hackles at times. Remember, their insensitivity and memory losses are something beyond their understanding or intention. Sometimes, the elderly get violent…handle the situation appropriately. Nowadays there are n number of forums, support groups etc who cater to specific problems involved in caring for the elderly.

Here are some pointers to follow at home, in the event of having an elderly person to take care of. 1. Do keep your house well-ventilated, clean and dust-free. 2. Try keeping the bathrooms of the elderly clean and DRY, to avoid cases of slipping. 3. Provide ample reading material and interesting things to do, customized to suit the inidividual. 4. Music is a great mood elevator; keep music of their generation easily accessible, with simple to operate music systems. 5. Constant reminders are needed for the elderly; sometimes they react negatively to such instructions. Be prepared to face bouts of anger. 6. Keep a doctor’s number, an ambulance number handy. 7. Inform all the people living around your house about the elderly relative you are looking after. This will help avoid situations in which you will feel flustered. 8. Keep all medicines out of their reach, and administer medicine in your presence. 9. Employ a part-time help at home in cases where you feel helpless. 10. Try to involve them in family outings and fun.

It finally does not matter whether the senior citizen you are looking after happens to be an in-law or your own parent. In both cases, remember you are dealing with ageing problems, and this is not an easy task. It calls for a lot of patience on your part. And when I say Patience, I mean patience! Try not to shout and express your feelings of disgust, anger, and rage: even though these might feelings may be uppermost on your  mind.

Balance your own life out by reading, meditation, having friends over, or going out for a break. Lastly, always boost yourself up by reminding yourself that the present situation could have been worse!

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Man Vs Machines.

     Maybe the time cometh….as predicted by the late H.G. Wells. As time goes on, we are getting trapped into our own makings. Realisation of this dawned on me this year, when, mysteriously my home appliances started a rebellion against me. First, it was my microwave oven. This gadget would refuse to start, even while it showed the correct temperature and time setting. Initially, it would start and stop in fits and starts. When it did, I was filled with elation, and attributed it to my "touch". However, one day I could no longer claim that I was the "Chosen One" to possess the magical touch. Months later, when I had the time to call in a repair man, it turned out that the darned microwave machine is now the home to many cockroaches, and hence it’s laid-back attitude!
         The  Pest Control was called in, and with a vengeance, I rid my home of pestilesence. My microwave oven started humming happily, as so did I. But before I knew it, my hot water geyser gave way. The stone faced plumber came calling, and took out the coil ( that all important bit of machinery which is responsible for all the water heating work) and showed me the sorry state it had become, thanks to the unending supply of hard water we get in our area. Never one to let things remain as they are, I splurged on a new coil, which cost me a tidy sum, but I didn’t mind, for I needed that hot water in this season. No sooner had the coil sprung to work, the geyser tank gave way, and one day, as I was chatting on the phone, the geyser tank started letting out a virtual water fall. Panic ensued, plumbers were called in and they had nothing to offer. I had to get a new geyser. The present status: still pondering over WHICH brand of geyser to get. My guarantee card says that I have missed the guarantee period by one month, which is so typical.
            One morning, I decided to be the Good Samaritan and give my neighbour a lift to the nearby shopping mall, when, lo and behold, three fourths of the way, my car gear stopped working. It simply broke. Looking back, it was only by divine grace that I managed to coax my vintage car to the car parking of the mall. Shaken, but not stirred, I was able to leave my neighbour at the mall as promised. The car helpline was summoned, and, after what seemed ages, the car was back in action, leaving me exhausted and on edge.
            A few days later, I was travelling in the lift of  my apartment, and was amiably chatting with the iron-lady, who was my sole companion in the lift. Suddenly, the lift came to a halt, and the alarm bells in my mind started ringing. Fearing that there would be no one to detect us soon, I kept pressing on the alarm bell button, and made sure that the security guards were alerted.  After much drama, we were able to see daylight again, after a 25 minute ordeal in a stuck lift, which refused to accept the back-up generator power.
            Are the machines against me, I ask? My neighbour, a well wisher, insists it is the work of an unfavourable ‘Shani’ (Saturn) the planet which controls man, machine and metals, and your overall luck, according to Hindu astrology.
            I’m not finished yet. The latest episodes are: an unpredictable computer, and a cell phone which threatens to disintegrate very soon.
If this isn’t the work of mischievous stars, then what is it? Does anyone have an answer?

How to deal with dominating people.

              " Forget about World Peace. You are very small. Look after those around you.
                If you can’t look after those around you, look after yourself.
                If you can’t look after yourself, ask for help."
            Have you ever encountered a person who is dominating? Dominance comes in many forms. Some dominating people come across as silent observers, contributing little to conversations or group discussions. Often, they lack facial expression. It is only later that they try to hit back, and are capable of making situations very tricky and difficult.
             Dominating people try to find faults in others. They cannot be talked to reasonably, and are hot-headed, rude, argumentative and aggressive individuals. It is debatable whether dominating people are actually courageous or brave. Mostly, they desire to be the centre of attention and will achieve their aims at any cost. Negative dominance means when a person is trying to take away something from you: your morale, your self esteem, or a possibly blossoming relationship. Unlike a person with "leadership qualities", in which a dominating or strong personality has a positive influence on a group of people and binds them together, a negatively inclined dominating people will shun relationships, and most often than not, be a jealous, envious or evil person.
              Whether it  is your boss, a friend, or a relative, try to remain calm in the face of a dominating person or a situation which is threatening to flare up into a full fledged battle of wits. They will try to put you down and may even go all out to publicly humiliate you. Seldom aware of being respectful, they behave like charging bulls, and do not possess very great restraining powers. Handle the situation with care: and in this case, the word "care" mostly means….do not react. At the same time, do not show that you are being intimidated. Insults will be hurled freely at you, and under unpredicatable circumstances. Like the Boy Scouts’ motto, always, ‘Be Prepared.’. But do not stoop to their low levels…..or else all will be lost.
              Negatively dominating people are overcome with an inferiority complex and hence will act extra sensitive and touchy. In their quest for dominating the moment, they may quote you out of context (they have extraordinarily good memories) or twist your words to mean something which you hadn’t ever intended or meant. Naturaly, the intention is to provoke. Do not be provoked. Do not react. Be firm and calm, yet show your superior personality by not losing your dignity, self esteem and balance. Remind yourself that you are dealing with a totally irrational human being, who is out to get you.
                If you play into the hands of an aggressive-dominating type, you will be harming yourself and relations with people whom you actually love, for these people try to hit out where it hurts the most. Relationships suffer and you are looking at the bigger picture, remember?
Say affirmative things to yourself, and always stay alert when you sense that the conversation is going the wrong way. Take control of dominating people by remaining in control of yourself. Best of luck!

The Other Side of Midnight: Plight of Street Children.

             Friends, I would like to share with you an article which appeared in today’s newspaper ( The Hindu, Bangalore, Sept. 6, 2009).

It highlights the terrible plight of our country’s street children, and how they have to struggle in order to survive without a proper family to return to or the basic amenities of life. If anyone needs help on a first priority basis, it is such children.


What’s in store?: (From left) Shilpa, Sheila and Ammu at a short-stay home for distressed children in Mangalore.

MANGALORE: Three intoxicated street children found snorting handkerchiefs soaked in petrol and wandering aimlessly near Ambedkar Circle (Jyothi Circle) here were rescued by some local people and handed over to the District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) late on Friday night.

The children are siblings and have been identified as Sheila (9), Ammu (7) and Shilpa (5). They have been admitted to a short-stay home for distressed children under the care of the CWC.

In startling revelation, the sisters told the CWC members that their father, Shivanna, killed their mother, Chandramma, two years ago by crushing her head with a boulder. He also sold their brother, Raju (4), for money.

While the two younger girls barely speak, Sheila went on to add that she could show where her mother’s body was buried and identify the person to whom her brother was sold.

According to the Juvenile Justice Act, said CWC member Geo D’Silva, the statement given to the CWC enjoys the same status as an FIR (first information report) registered by the police.

“My father killed my mother and sold my brother Raju to a security guard for a lot of money. He would have sold us too, so we ran away,” said Sheila, speaking to The Hindu on Saturday.

Family torn apart

She also said her eldest brother Gopal is in jail for felony. Jail authorities confirmed this and said Gopal was a habitual offender who had spent several short stints in jail. Jail sources also added that he often talked about his three little sisters and a teenaged younger brother.

Asked if she had another older sibling, Sheila said, “Yes, his name is Babruvahana. He is in the remand home for theft.”

When CWC members cross-checked this claim they found out that Babruvahana was indeed in an Observation Home for juvenile delinquents managed by the Juvenile Justice Board and is 15 years old.

Sheila also said her two elder brothers took to petty crime and the sisters ran away only after her mother’s death.

She said she had studied up to the second standard, and her elder brothers went to school when their mother was alive. Although her elder brothers lived separate lives now, the five of them met occasionally. Her brothers also periodically gave the sisters some money.

Sheila said she and her sisters were often harassed and assaulted by fellow street people, shopkeepers, autorickshaw drivers and even policemen. It perhaps explained the look of terror on the girls’ faces when they were put in a police jeep and transported to the children’s home on Friday night.

When they were found, the girls were dressed like boys in shirts and trousers. Their hair was cropped short.

“You don’t know how some men are on the streets. They would have done bad things to us if they found out that we were girls,” said Sheila.

Sheila said they started snorting petrol, petroleum glue and other cheaply available intoxicants to overcome hunger pangs.

They were taught to snort these intoxicants by a group of children who also live on the street. “Thumba majaa banthu,” she said in Kannada, which roughly translates to “It was very enjoyable.”

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Most of us are aware of the grim side of life but after reading this article, you will find yourself not only thanking God for providing you with such a secure life but also wondering how to help underpriviliged people.


Recent experience of child after “bunking” school.

                   Almost all of us have experienced this at one point in our lives. Try to recall your High School days, the vast portions to be "mugged", burning the midnight oil prior to the exams etc. Recall also,  the stress levels of trying to complete your never-ending revision and coping with giving attendance at school. Most of us would also remember those days of secret conspiracies of "mass bunking", when the majority of the class would agree to miss out one working day when exams were knocking at your door.
               This week, my daughter, a High School student, debated whether to attend school on Tuesday, as the First Term Exam was commencing on Wednesday (i.e. the very next day). The school, in turn thought it had done a big favour to the children by declaring Tuesday ( the one day prior to the Exam day) as a half day. After much deliberation and calculation, both she and I came to the conclusion that, given the huge portions staring at her in the eye, and the time wastage involved in to and fro travel, it would be wiser to "bunk" school, rather than attending it. 
                 As the day progressed and my daughter was rather wrapped up in her studies, she received a frantic call from one of her  class mates who had actually taken the trouble to attend school, that the school authorities are livid over the mass absenteeism, and all those who would be coming the next day to answer the exams would have to produce a plausible reason or valid medical certificate as a reason for their absence; failing which, a total of 55 marks would be deducted from the aggregate marks in the final report.
                I didn’t know whether to thank the class mate for this information or not, at that point of time, because I was left to deal with a double-tensed child who could no longer concentrate on her studies after hearing this news. Both of us, mother and daughter, came to the conclusion that we’d have to come up with a great reason for not turning up at school the next day, or we would have to face the depressing consequences of marks being deducted.
                That same evening, I found myself at a local doctor’s clinic. Thankfully, there were no other patients that day, and, after some frank explanations of my situation at home, the doctor cooperated and wrote down a ‘certificate’, stating the reason for my child’s absence. Filled with gratitude and guarding that all important document, I rushed home, and leaving no stone unturned in retrieving my daughter from the grim prospect of having to lose marks, I also wrote a hand written note to the school.
                The next day, which was the day of Commencement of Exams, I waited anxiously for her to return from school. To my relief, I saw her smiling. She recounted everything that happened that morning. Apparently, nearly 70% of the class had been absent, and the Principal gave them all a tough talk. Most of the students who could produce medical certificates were pardoned, but a good number had not made it. I feel sorry for those children, if the school Principal is really going to go ahead with those threats.
                  This experience made me think about our schooling on the whole. Why should the higher class students have to compulsorily attend school, one day before the exam, on a day when no other teaching would be undertaken? Why are they demanding an explanation from around 30/40 students for being absent? Isn’t it very apparent that they had taken leave to study? Wouldn’t attending half a day of school leave them feeling exhausted and running severely out of time? It’s high time our schools thought more practically and not force the children and their parents into a corner, making us certified liars ? Schools, please wake up and take note.


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Reality shows: How real can they be?

               As consumers of TV viewing, we are being subjected to a slew of idiotic "reality" shows. Some hover around the match-making decisions of a starlet (Rakhi ka Swayamvar),most are youth based programs where  individuals are pitted against each other under varying circumstances ( MTV Roadies, Exhausted), and some feature infamous individuals of dubious nature (aren’t all infamous people dubious in nature?) surviving either in a house (Big Brother), or trying to survive in a jungle ( Iss Jungle se mujhe Bachao; a straight take off from the American series, "I’m a Celebrity…Get me out of Here!). Reality shows have smelt blood…and they know they have a gullible audience who will lap up any crap that they dish out. Especially if they feature a character or characters who have a claim to fame through doubtful means. To me, a "reality show" can never be truly showcase reality, as the participants are put in an environment specially created for the program. They know that the cameras are rolling 24*7,and that they have to behave in a certain way which allows them to enjoy the limelight. Most reality shows are copies of the ones already in circulation in the US and UK. They became a hit in India especially after the Bollywood beauty Shilpa Shetty hit the jackpot in the UK reality show, The Big Brother House, after being crowned (by default), for being a very decent human being in the face of Jade Goody’s racist and insulting remarks. By remaining mute, the so-far unnoticed Shilpa Shetty laid her hands on a jackpot prize, and even the hand of one of Britain’s most successful business men, Raj Kundra. Thanks to this, Shilpa today is an industry in her own right, running charitites, owning a castle or two in Scotland, sponsoring and owning cricket teams, and getting seen at the right places with the right people.
              Today I watched one of my favourite shows on the Nat Geo channel. It goes with the title," Jailed Abroad". If only our reality show hosts and participants watched this, would they really get to know what survival under excruciating circumstances mean. For instance, until today, I had not heard of Martin and Gracie Burnham. The couple, who were American missionaries, were kidnapped for 376 days in the Phillipines by a lesser known terror outfit called the Abu Sayyaf group. The sort of harrowing tales that the survivors of these extraordinary events live to tell, cannot be paralleled by the so-called reality shows which seem to be the flavour of the season on TV. At most,they can pass off as a poor mimicry of the real thing. I truly wish that such mindless shows would come to an end, and in fact, I think they are already on their way out. In one of the jungle shows for example, a participant was made to stick his head into a jar full of creepy crawlies, and when he emerged,he was bitten black and blue, with their venom coursing through his body. Today’s papers also cited a participant of a Pakistani reality show, who died while performing one of the tasks in  deep water.
                 The big question remains, that what more could the ever hungry, sensation seeking audience possibly derive more thrills from, after the craze for reality shows is over?

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