Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Homes for the Aged?

"Excuse me, I am looking for a place for my mother.  She is 84 and unfortunately we are unable to look after her at home.  We are looking for a place close to home, where we can visit her often".

"Does she have any health conditions?  Does she suffer from BP or diabetes"?

"She has dementia and is on medication.  She is not disruptive.  She is bed ridden and incontinent.  We have space constraints and hence unable to provide home nursing for her.  That is why we need a place where she can get in-house nursing care".

"Sorry, we do not take bed ridden patients.  Besides if your mother is on medications we cannot take her.  All our other inmates are normal".

This is the conversation I have with a reputed home for the aged.  The same is repeated with an ashram.  Another is willing to take her but will not allow us to visit her for more than 5 minutes.

I have a couple of questions.  
  • We do not want to dump my mother somewhere.  We just want assistance in looking after her.  We want to visit her and spend time with her every day.  Why would we agree to look her up for an obligatory 5 minutes once in a while?
  • Why would we want their help if she was able to do these things herself?  Would we not keep her at home?  Besides as far as I know, most old people have some problem or the other - mental or physical - if not now, somewhere down the line.  Very few old people are fortunate enough to die with their jogging shoes on.  So what do they do with their "normal" inmates when they are sick?  Throw them out on the streets?  Or send them off to hospitals?  Even hospitals would not keep patients for longer than a minimum period.  They need their beds.  They need more patients.  They need a cash inflow.  Besides there is a genuine shortage of beds in hospitals.  So will they send them back to their homes?  Will the people who sent their "normal" elderly people off to homes take them back when they are very sick and bed ridden?
  • What age is the "right old age" to enter an old age home?  50?  No, too young.  You should be working.  55?  Not yet.  (The typical "too old for pigtails, too young for cocktails syndrome".)  60?  Yes.  But are you "normal" at 60?  Maybe, maybe not.  What if you are not?  Well, too bad.  You did not get the chance to benefit from the services of an old age home.  

So where do the old people go once they are bed ridden (not that the can "go" anywhere - sorry for the bad joke).  Insurance?  Well, upto a limit.  What of expenses beyond that?  God help us then.  I wonder if even He can help us.  And what of those who can't afford even insurance?  Well, we are supposed to be a socialistic state are we not?  So where is the social security?  Well, that is just it.  That is what we are "supposed" to be, but we are not.  We are a wolf in lamb's clothing er.... a capitalistic society pretending to be socialitsic.  

So then what do we do?  Euthanasia?  No sir/madam.  Illegal.  Suicide?  Criminal offence.  You will be persecuted, sorry prosecuted if you fail to execute (pun unintended) your crime successfully.  Not that they will execute you.  They will just make your life a lot more miserable than it originally was, in order to show you what misery really means, so that you realize that you were not really all that miserable at that point of time when you tried to eliminate your miseries by eliminating yourself.  May be life on the street was quite tolerable compared to life in jail.  

Friday, 23 November 2012

"A Puppet's Life Ends On A String"

So read the headline in the Times of India dated 22nd November 2012.  The news brought a sense of closure to a lot of families whose near and dear ones who had been brutally slain by terrorists on the 26th of November 2008.  

The high drama that had ensued following the taking over of the Taj hotel and a few other buildings in Mumbai had been beamed live across the world by various Indian television channels.  The world had watched the action with bated breath.  One terrorist had been arrested and put to trial.

The trial of the young man had not been any less dramatic.  There was so much irony about the whole situation.  A lot of "evidence" was "examined" despite the fact that he had been seen by billions on television as he went about on a shooting spree.  He was kept in prison under high security - for what purpose, God knows - to prevent him from running away?  Could he have run away?  Would the public have let him take two steps without lynching him and tearing him to pieces?  Security to protect him from the public?  Despite the fact that he had butchered so many people so mercilessly?  And seemed so unrepentant about it?  Despite the fact that the only obvious outcome would be for him to be hanged?
Would any other country for whose cause he was acting have given as fair a trial to an Indian who would have conducted himself in a similar manner on their soil?  He would have been stoned, publicly beheaded, flogged or subjected to any other form of punishment that does not bear thinking of.
Yet our country thought it fit to provide him with a lawyer to fight his case, and if the press be believed five star treatment in jail.  So it was the tax payers' money which was spent to keep a man who killed so many of us alive all these days.  To quote a cliche, this happens only in India.

Having said all of which, there was a sense of deep sadness when one read the news.  Here was a young lad, the son of an impoverished family.  A young boy who had been misled into believing he was doing his country a favour.  A country who did not respond to his plea for a lawyer to fight his case when he was arrested ..... a country which did not respond to the notification about his execution ..... a country which did not claim his body.  His last wish was to meet his family.  A wish which was not fulfilled.  According to the papers his last words were "Allah kasam maaf karna, aisi galti dobara nahi hogi".   What a waste of a young life.  What was the use of such a late repentance and realization that it was a "galti" of a gargantuan proportion?

Maybe this will act as a lesson to other youth going his way ..... a lesson that there is no glory in this kind of death, a lesson that the people for whom you think you are laying down your life do not even acknowledge you once you are trapped, a lesson that not even your family acknowledges you later on.  Or will it?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

To Live or ..... - That Is the Question

Life has its strange twists and turns.  Take for instance the fact that I went to get my mother who suffers from dementia to stay with me.  She had been with my sister for a year and I thought it was only fair that I take charge now.  My sister is now a senior citizen herself and has grapples with health issues of her own.  It did not seem far fetched to think that a day would come when she would be forced to send mom to an institution.  This was something I could not bear to think of.

It was precisely to avoid this situation I brought her along with me.  I was really happy to see the change doing her some good - till the 4th day with me.  On that fateful evening I took her for a walk and despite my holding her hand, she tripped and fell, breaking the head of her femur.

What followed was no less than a nightmare.  A hemi-arthroplasty (surgical replacement of the ball of the femur) followed.  She came out of the ICU disoriented, got a urinary tract infection, blood infection, a fever of 105 degrees Celsius, bed sores, her dementia worsened tremendously and she became totally bed ridden.  She needs at least two nurses at a time to turn her over, bathe her, clean her ..... which makes it logistically difficult to keep her at home with professional help.  So I have now ended up in a situation which I wanted to avoid in the first place - having to send her to an institution.

Leaving aside the pros and cons of institutionalization, old age homes etc., I was thinking about her situation and that of many others in our country.  She has two daughters.  My dad was in government service which meant he had access to the central government health scheme.  This makes all the difference when a situation like hospitalization arises.  What do people like us who have no such facility do?  Yes, we do have medical insurance right now.  What happens when we eventually stop earning and can't pay our premiums?  What happens in the event of long drawn out hospitalizations, even if we pay our premiums? What happens when we have no one to do the running around for us?  Can we afford to go to an old age home or to an institution?  OK, may be we can find ourselves a place in a retirement home.  But can everyone afford that?  There are many in this country who live on the brink of existence, lead a hand to mouth existence.  What are they to do, where are they to go?

I don't want to sound morbid, but I cannot help think ..... what happens to the billions of people in this country who are in situations worse than us?  Do we all commit suicide?  We already have farmers committing suicide, unable to pay back their debts, we have students buckling under pressure committing suicide, we have khaps killing young people who decide they want to spend their lives with each other, we have desperate young women who are tortured by husbands and in-laws committing suicide, ......  Is this lack of care in old age and illness going to be one more reason to be added to the list in times to come?  Is it time the government decriminalized suicide?  Or is it high time they did something for people to encourage them to live?