Friday, August 01, 2008

The Perils of Old Age



Rukku patti is 80 years old. Her story is similar to some other aging people, but is also different in its own way. Her husband passed away a few years ago. From the time she got married as a young girl, she lived with her husband in some places in North India and eventually came back to Chennai. Her husband didn't earn a steady income due to lack of being in one job for a significant amount of time. As a result, she always had to manage with the meager earnings and did a commendable job running the household on that. Sadly, she and her husband didn't have any children. Over the years, one of her sisters who was wealthy enough to own a posh house in Chennai, allowed her and her husband to live in a small side portion of the house for free. The portion consisted of a small room with a small kitchen and a bathroom outside behind the well of the house. Rukku patti was a strong-willed woman, she was very religious, had her daily routine carved out (visiting the Mupathamma temple and reading Lalitha Sahasranamam were part of that routine) and was a good wife who cared for her husband taking care of him in his old days.

Rukku patti and her sister weren't always on the best of terms. It was always a challenge for the two old women to get along and each of them, though living without their husbands in the same house, but in different portions, lead their lives separately. Rukku patti's sister's son and his wife and daughter lived in their own house within the same compound wall behind their house. The sister's son and daughter-in-law took tremendous care of Rukku patti and also financially supported her. After the death of her husband a few years ago, her health started failing her slowly, but steadily. Several slips in the bathroom, tripping while walking etc. led to her being diagnosed as having acute osteoporosis which cannot be cured given her age. Her mobility was restricted to having a walker around the house. Her most recent fall in the bathroom, led her to the hospital where she has been for the past 20 days. She is unable to walk anymore. Her sister's son and daughter-in-law who are also older people in their 60's with their own health issues attended to her sanitary needs during this condition and literally took care of her like a child. There are adult diapers, each diaper costs Rs. 270 or more which are used, since even the hospital staff prefer to use this rather than having a bedpan and also given the patient's age and inability to hold. But, given all practical situations, she cannot function independently once she returns from the hospital and it has become most difficult for those around her to continue to help her on a daily basis with basic life functions.

As a result, her sister's son under who has become the primary caretaker consulted with her brothers who are also older people and the rest of her family and has decided to admit her in an old age home. The monthly expenses for the home will be paid primarily by the sister's son and the other family members will also pitch in. It is not an easy task finding an old age home in Chennai these days, most homes admit people with several conditions, one of them being, the person must be independently able to walk to the bathroom, dining area etc. It is so hard to get a hired helper to attend 24/7 on one aging adult, when they have a home full of old people in different stages and conditions. Not to mention that the monthly charges and non-refundable fees are also expensive and additional charges must be paid if a helper is needed.

Rukku paati will be going to a home several miles away from Tambaram on Monday. She is my paati's sister and my parents are the one who have been helping her. I talked to her on the phone at the hospital yesterday and she was courageous to tell me no to worry about her going to a home and fully believed that she is grateful for the support and help my parents have been doing for over the past 30 years and realizes that she can't be a burden to them anymore.

But, it is indeed sad for both my parents and me to see her go. She was part of the home I grew up in and often always had a quick hot tiffin for me in the afternoons and was another paati to me, though I call her Rukku chitti, just like my dad. She would never be without giving me some small money gift on special festivals and occasions telling me that this was what she could afford and I should save it up and buy one dress and tell her that i got a dress with the money she gave me. Sitting in a far away country, all I can do is to think about those memories and tell my dad that I too will help pitch in for her old age home costs, just like the rest of the family.

I only wish and pray that Rukku paati has a smooth transition and continues to live the rest of her life with the pride, strong-will and dignity that she always kept.

23 comments:

na_an said...

Thats really sad. I am sure she will be fine with all your love and support.

na_an said...

Also want to applaud your parents for taking care of her with so much patience. It is not a easy task.

Cham said...

That is really touching ur story! It reminds my patti situation who is in bed now from past 4 months! I can imagine the situation, my well wishes go to her recovery!

Lakshmi said...

I understand the emotions..very touching and poignant..thats the best part of joint families..

Jayashree said...

Kudos to your parents for having taken care of rukku paatti for so long....a lot of people don't do it for their own parents, these days.

Krishnan said...

Initially I thought it was a story and when you disclosed in the end that Rukku paati is your own paati's sister, it came as a surprise. Yes as your rightly said, it is indeed a very difficult transition for people who have to depend on others in their old age. I join you in praying for her good health and well being.

Laavanya said...

It must be really hard to let her go to an old age home - It's really nice that your parents have been helping her so much. Those thoughts will keep her content.

Laksh said...

Very touching. Hope Rukku paati makes the transition with ease. We have my athai paati in a similar state in our home. I could so relate to Rukku paati's tale.

VEGETABLE PLATTER said...

it is a very touching story. all that one can do is pray for her

Rajitha said...

rukku paati is indeed lucky that she has such a loving family mitr. in the current day and age where one's own kids do not take care of their parents...her nephew and his wife taking care of her with love and you having the same affection to her as u would for ur grandmother is indeed sweet. i am sure..rukku paati is really a loving woman to induce this care from all :)

Priya said...

Its sad indeed but she understands and hope she will be fine where she will live meeting new people around of her age now.

Sachita(india) said...

M,

Kudos to your parents. To take care of one's own parents in their old age is hard, to take care of their siblings especially considering how hectic your parent's own life(with your working mother)... I don't think words can justice to their support and care they had offered to her for so long.

It might not be a right post to comment on, but this was a very well-written post.. something so straight from heart. When I started reading I assumed it was a story, two lines later I know this is from your life...

Bavani said...

Beautifully written mitr - so straight from the heart that it brought tears to my eyes - makes me wonder how my mother will be being so far away from me.

I'm sure your patti will be ok and with God's grace - as you have described, she seems like a woman full of love. Looking at the positive side, she will now have someone younger to look after her at the home - your parents have done more than their part in life and also need to look after their health too. I too pray for her physical and mental strength...

Spillay said...

I wish your pati and the rest of the family a peaceful transition. God bless.

Aparna said...

I can so relate to what you have written. Kudos to your parents and family to help out. I hope your paati does well in the home. It is difficult to take care of someone like that at home without additional help which also would come at a cost. My mother who is 61 has been bedridden for quite a while. She has hopes of recovery...but there are days when she just wants to go live in an old age home instead of troubling one and all around. Primary care taker of my mom being my dad who also is old!
So, from what I read, I guess your paati appreciates all that you do for her. Hope she likes her new home. She sure seems really loved by one and all of you. Best wishes to her and all of you.
Sorry for the long comment :)

Shankar Raman said...

mitr- Me being someone, being bought up all my life by my grandparents, it is really sad to see the plight of rukku patti....but hats off to ur parents too....Often wonder ppl who live abroad with their parents back home, will prabably end up in a same case, if only we had the heart to come back for them.....Really wish, we had a better way out...

thetastetinkerer said...

Very touching write up.....I'm really happy to read of the love and affection your family has shown Rukku Patti over the years; Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

A-kay said...

One of your best posts (if I may say so) - very touching and poignant. She will definitely be there in my prayers! Thanks for sharing this with us.

mitr_bayarea said...

All-

Thanks to each and every one of you for your kind words and support for Rukku paati. With the goodwill of family, relatives and friends, her transition should be smooth.

Amrutha said...

oh! such a lovely post. Sometimes we seem so far away to be able to do anything..illa?

Mavin said...

Hi

Came across you blog today and read "The Perils of Old Age"

Let me share what happened in a different family, in a different time and in another part of India.

An old teacher then aged 90 (around 1990) and his wife had nowhere to go inspite of having seven children. As was inevitable, old age home was the only option.

Three later this brilliant teacher made his journey to the other side. His wife, now alone, continued to stay at the old age home for about four years more.

One day she had a bad fall and fractured her hand. At this stage her grandson (daughter's son) said that there has to be some dignity in life and got her to his home. His mother was also staying with him and she was overjoyed to have her mother back.

There was visible difference and this old lady now about 88 years actually began helping around the house and participating in many social functions.

When she was 94 or so, she started showing signs of Dementia. Her general health was good but her memory started failing rapidly till her memory loss was complete.

She remained with her daughter who took very good care and the grandson was clear that there was to be no further displacement.

That old lady finally gave up and she passed away about three years later.

We may not be so lucky in our later days.

Madhuram said...

Hi, I came here from Laksh's blog. I've been following your comments in her blog for quite sometime. Just now got the chance to visit your blog.

This reminds me of my patt's sister too. She is also facing the health challenges of aging and is also not financially sound and we help her.

Hope Rukku patti feels better.

mitr_bayarea said...

Amrutha- so true, sometimes we seem too far away to be able to physically help out.

Mavin- Thanks for sharing this true story, very heart warming.

Madhuram- looks like you too have a smiliar situation, hopefully these old people will be well taken care of. Thanks for visiting.