Aged, aging, Geriatric care is becoming the common word most searched in this decade and will be as our aging population grows by billions in the coming decades. In that case, do they all mean the same? What are our families, elderly, ourselves referring caring to?
I begin by coining something that I have felt for a long time coming. While working in various settings in Geriatric Medicine, from primary care to specialist, what I saw was there was a difference in the perception and reception of caring ways! For some caring was about caring for someone’s life, that life could mean anything, for others caring was about caring for our aged populations. Whether be a family caregiver or a caregiver in senior living and care, those meanings signified different things to different people.
Caregiving or caring was seen as part of life, of tradition, values, heritage, culture, vs seen as a source of income, a number on the priority list, or a census or jobs to carry out for the day. When we think about caring or caregiving so variedly, then it can trigger different feelings in the caregiver. What would be ideal, what would be the way to address these things, these and many questions need to be answered and the time is now as we head into a new decade.
Here presenting some examples from my past experiences :
- Our elderly need the care, but who are the right people, exploring those options is the right way to start, it must be done by the partner, elderly or family themselves, what they see might be different from a third party…missing this key step, in many instances, can lead to friction. For a great experience, empowerment comes from within not vice versa.
- Caregivers and caregiving are not synonymous, as they are humans vs actions, life care is a wholesome holistic care vs caring of elderly, which can be a economical opportunity.
- Training of caregivers and the art of caregiving differ so much even between shifts or people helping the same elderly. Many times, such discrepancies can create a lot of hostility towards outside caregivers, leading to many times elderly neglect due to lack of time and resources from family caregivers. Even with training, we must remember that not all are same, hence some amount of acceptance, tolerance must be taken into consideration by all parties.
- As the health changes, the caring of an elderly would never be the same as life caring. Whether it be a mental health challenge or chronic medical condition, there is always an error margin. At some time in life as an individual progresses to a bed bound status, people think of it as a chore and occupation rather than just caregiving. While detachment might be an innate response to cope with stress, trauma of caring, it might not be the best choice or modality for all elderly. So a little sensitivity in this scenario might turn it into a win win situation.
- The joys of caring or caregiving as I have known extends not only to immediate caregivers but also to people who fall in line … like physicians, nurses, assistants, drivers, cooks and so on. Hence life care involves caring for an elderly as a combined effort than placing all load onto one caregiver at a time. This distribution might be the best solution. For caregiving though not accepted by many cultures as a mental health issue, it still is… in many ways as discussed above, a little unloading/sharing of the burdens harms none and empowers all.
- ADL and IADL are important considerations in Geriatric care. A previous blog ( searchable) on these two can help us understand our next discussion. While we may quantify and qualify our elderly based on these terminologies, an elderly’s life is not limited to only these. There is life outside of this, though subjective, many things play a vital role for our elderly. Hence categorizing people who are aging or losing their mental capabilities into certain trains based on numerical values might be overexaggerated and baseless. What if we just looked at care as life and not as aging?
There might be so many others out there, that we would need a new consensus on caring as we help our elderly. Thousands of years of caring, aging cannot be erased but we can make way to improvise and improve our thoughts on caregiving and caring and nurture those so all our elderly feel helped, cared and wanted. There might be exceptions, we would love to hear your trains of thought and appreciate your comments. Thank you.