Life-life balance

life-balance-elephant1People are fond of talking about work-life balance. Basically what this phrase means is that one’s life should not be all work and there must be time allocated for self, family, friends and recreation and hobby,  so that there is a good balance in one’s life.

For people who are looking after elderly loved ones at home (whom we call “family caregivers”), we have a similar phrase – it’s called life-life balance.

Many of the family caregivers we meet have pretty much completely given their lives to looking after their elder ones, usually their parents. We know a Doctor who has given up practice to look after her mother, a man who has taken long leave from his government job (on loss of pay) to look after his ailing and aged father, a lady looking after her husband who has got Alzheimer’s and her mother-in-law who is really old, the list goes on…

What is common to all these people is that they no longer seem to have a life of their own. Their day (and night) revolves around the people they are caring for and everything they do is rearranged to ensure that the routine for these people is not upset. This kind of life can be extremely stressful and many of them are depressed, and have lost interest in all the things that gave their life a good balance.

If you are family caregiver, falling into such a rut is very easy, and before you know it, you life would have become completely uni-dimensional.  To avoid getting caught do the following:

1. List down things that you love doing. This could include work, hobbies, general activities, fitness routines, friends, etc.

2. Build a support structure that will let you provide time for most of these activities. Have helpers come in to relieve you, talk to your friends, relatives, siblings to give you regular breaks – any which way, ensure you always have some “me” time.

3. Don’t let the condition of those under your care get to you. More importantly don’t feel guilty. Most family caregivers have not received a single day’s formal training in looking after the elderly and consequently most feel inadequate and ill-equipped to handle the different situations that arise. When you are feeling that way, tell yourself you are providing the best support that you possibly can.

4. Get proper rest. Getting up 3-5 times every night can be extremely enervating. Even if you believe that you are used to it, it can still impair your judgement considerably. So do not compromise on the rest and sleep that you need. Find ways to avoid having to get up in the night. Diapers can help a lot here or have a night nurse so you can be fresh to face each new day.

5. Remember, you are duty bound to look after yourself as well as your loved ones. Besides, only when you are fit can you do a good job of providing support to the cared ones.

Life-Life balance is all about making sure you don’t short-change yourself. Get up and go get a life!

This is an article in the series – “The Elephant in the Room”.
The elephant in the room” (TEITR) series is meant to highlight many facts and realities about the life of senior citizens in India that most of us tend to ignore/avoid.

A little guilt is a good starting point.

caringforcaregiverWhen your parents get old and need to be cared for, one of you (among the children) will end up looking after them for the majority of the time. We wrote about that here.

However, just because you are not the one looking after your parents does not mean that you don’t have any responsibilities.

Are you feeling a little guilty that you are not the one providing the care giving? Good, because that is a great starting point. However, don’t let it end there. Do something to help your sibling doing the care giving so that their life also gets easier.

Think you are too far away to help? Think again! And find ways to help.
Feel you are too busy? Every one’s busy and you just have to find the time.
Don’t know how to help? Ask your brother or sister who is doing the looking after. They will know how you can help.
Think it’s easy? Try doing it yourself and see how enervating it is to watch a loved one suffer.

Be creative and learn how to help your sibling and your ageing parents lead a more comfortable life. Go ahead and pick up the phone and give your caregiving sibling a call now.

This is an article in the series – “The Elephant in the Room”.
The elephant in the room” (TEITR) series is meant to highlight many facts and realities about the life of senior citizens in India that most of us tend to ignore/avoid.

Come join us on a Tonic Tour and feel young again!

Old is gold Log Tonic Tour

Old is Gold Store launches Tonic Tours – rejuvenating trips specially designed for senior citizens to unwind and relax.

The first Tonic Tour is a half-day visit to Dakshina Chitra, a wonderfully calm and quiet site on the East Coast Road, about 20 Kms from Adyar, Chennai.

The program starts with a ride in an air-conditioned coach to Dakshin Chitra, includes a demonstration of traditional pottery by an experienced potter, and culminates in a special South Indian lunch, before heading back to the city.

The trip has been designed with the special needs of senior citizens in mind and is meant to help re-energize and rejuvenate one while providing an opportunity to rest, relax and enjoy the company of fellow travellers.

An ideal and safe opportunity to get out of the house and treat oneself to a guilt-free, worry-free short holiday that can bring back memories of one’s younger days.

The trip starts at Adyar at 9:30 AM and concludes at the same place at around 3:00 PM.

Don your lightest and most comfortable summer-wear and a big smile. Bring your medicines, but leave behind your worries and your daily routine.  To know more about why seniors should go out, click here.

Tour date: 29th May 2013. Totally only 10 seats available. Registration closes on 27th May 2013. Call 244 66 244 to book now!

You could be the chosen one!

thechosenoneYour parents may have 3-4 children or even more and yet the primary responsibility of looking after them in the old age may fall on you. The choice of you as the primary caregiver could be driven by many different factors – city you live in, the size of the house you have, the proximity of the required medical facilities, your marital status, your financial situation, maybe even your parents’ preference.

Given that in all probability, each of your siblings is married and has a family of their own, the ailing parent can only be looked after by one of you at any given time. Though it is possible to shift them from one sibling’s house to another on a regular schedule (we see this quite often), that is by no means a very comfortable proposition from the parent’s perspective.

Talk to your siblings, find out how they can help, see how you can have them share the additional responsibilities with you, but remember the bottom line – if they are staying with you, you are their main caregiver and it is entirely your responsibility to handle the situations that arise.

“Why me?” is a question you can ask every minute of every day, and yet never get an answer. so, if you are the chosen one, deal with it.

This is the third article in the series – “The Elephant in the Room”.
The elephant in the room” (TEITR) series is meant to highlight many “obvious” facts and realities about the life of senior citizens in India that most of us tend to ignore/avoid.

Toothpaste that rebuilds enamel – For people with sensitive teeth

Tough-tooth-enamel-002A dear friend has written in to spread the word about a new toothpaste that can help rebuild enamel.  Read on…

British scientists have developed a toothpaste that they claim contains a liquid form of calcium and can help in treating sensitive teeth by rebuilding the tooth enamel.

People with sensitive teeth experience pain and discomfort after consuming hot or cold food, liquid or breathing cold air. This problem often occurs when gums recede and the tooth roots are exposed. They are not covered by hard enamel, the protective outer layer of the tooth.

Arm and Hammer’s enamel care toothpaste produced by Church and Dwight Co., the world’s leading manufactures of a wide range of personal care, household and specialty products is said to contain a liquid form of calcium, the key component of tooth enamel.

The liquid calcium rebuilds the tooth by plugging microscopic gaps in the enamel. The repair stops dental nerves from becoming exposed thereby preventing pain, reported online edition of Daily Mail.

Dentist Graham Barnby, who tested the new product at his clinics in south England, said, “This is a unique product. Current toothpastes aimed at people with sensitive teeth simply mask the pain while this one solves the problem.”

The toothpaste, which has been five years in the making, will be available in Britain by the end of this month at 3.49 pounds for a 75 ml tube before going on sale in the U.S.

The problem of dental sensitivity increases with age as teeth become more sensitive as a result of gum recession or erosion of the enamel by acidic food and drink

Senior companionship services.

CompanionshipServicesOne of the biggest, yet silent problems that seniors and the elderly face in today’s India is loneliness.   Most of today’s homes are double income families (where both husband and wife are working) given the escalating costs and inflation. The children, of course, go to school. Which leads to the elders in the house having it all to themselves through out the day.  Even after the family comes back, due to work related stress, they don’t have the inclination or energy to talk to the elders properly.

This kind of neglect is proving to be really harmful for the elders and more and more of them are being diagnosed as depressed.  The remedy is actually quite simple – elders need to have companionship – people who will talk to them, spend some quality time together and even help them learn things or take up a new hobby.

A new crop of companies have realized that with the breaking of the traditional family structures, the only way elders can get company is through professional services.  These companies called elder companionship services companies have trained staff (both men and women) who can come home and spend meaningful time providing elders with companionship, help in skills development and get them back in touch with the world.

WhenAt60 is a new company that provides such services.  You can get details about them at

Importance of going out

Second in our series titled “The Elephant in the Room” highlighting common issues we tend to ignore.

senior_day_outMany old people, especially those with even minor balance issues, incontinence issues or other mobility issues, gradually lose their confidence and stop going out of the house altogether.

Given the state of the roads and traffic, we also, as children and care givers are happy with this trend because it saves us from a lot of anxiety and worry. Before too long, the only activity that our elderly are involved in is watching television.

This is a very dangerous trend. Without regular meeting with friends and other sensory imputs (beyond television, which is a very passive form of activity), the brain tends to deteriorate faster, possibly speeding up the process towards some form of dementia.

In addition, being cooped up in the house can lead to reduced exercise, faster degeneration of muscle tissue and increased irritability and depression.

As children and care givers of elders, however much easier it is to let them stay at home, it is our duty to ensure that they go out on a regular basis.

You can take them to the beach, arrange a group visit to a nice place or temple, get them to visit relatives, or even coax them to a walk in the neighbourhood park.

Do not let your insecurities compound theirs. Being imprisoned within four walls is no life for anybody, least of all our loved ones.

Take them out today!

Watch this space for more news in this area.

The Elephant In The Room – your parents need you.

elephant_in_the_roomThis is the first in a series of short articles titled “The elephant in the room” (TEITR), which will highlight many facts and realities about the life of senior citizens in India that most of us tend to ignore/avoid.

This one is about your parents needing you.

If you are in your mid-forties and have parent(s) alive, sooner or later you are going to have to look after them, just they way they looked after you when you were a baby – literally.

This means that, one day, they may become incapable of looking after themselves and you will have to feed them, bathe them, clean them and keep them entertained and in good spirits and health.

With age and infirmity, some of the elderly get cranky and irritable. Age related illnesses such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons can add to the complications. You may have to keep a close watch on them, lest the wander away. You will need to identify a good Geriatrician. You will have to set aside time to take them to their Doctor on a regular basis and ensure they are taking all their medication on time and the vaccinations required (there are new vaccines in the market specially targeting older people including ones for pneumonia, typhoid, etc. Ask the Doctor). Be prepared for midnight emergency trips to the hospital.

Learn to identify their needs and wants. Do not expect them to tell you – sometimes, they may not know or may not wish to tell you. Relearn how to put on a diaper. If you have forgotten how to show your love and affection, relearn how to hug and kiss.

Old people are like babies. For the lucky among us, our parents will live long. Towards the end, they will need all the support, love and affection you can give. And only you can give it.

You don’t have to think about that and worry about it now. Just be prepared for when the time comes.

Tips on balance as you age

Falls are relatively common in older adults who live at home, and increase with advancing age. Falls are associated with an increase in mortality, a reduction in mobility and greater dependence in activities of daily living.

Balance, the ability to control and maintain your body’s position as it moves through space, is such an integral part of daily life that most people rarely give it conscious thought. Your brain, muscles, and bones work together to maintain your body’s balance and to keep you from falling, whether you’re walking, rising from a chair, or climbing stairs. They also let you navigate sloping or uneven surfaces.

There are conditions, which may impair your sense of balance and contribute to falls. The effects of aging are the most common causes of balance problems; injury, certain drugs, alcohol and disease can also trigger problems.

It’s important to find out what you can do to decrease your risk and improve your general health and mobility. Individual programs of muscle strengthening and balance retraining, home assessments, exercise classes are beneficial.

Physiotherapy can help.

Working with a physiotherapist can produce exceptional results in many cases. Even if some of your natural sense of balance has been diminished over time, Physiotherapists are experts at retraining your body to make the most of its capabilities.

A physiotherapist will likely review your medical history and determine your general physical condition, as well as conduct an inventory of tests specifically designed to measure balance and gait.  After the physiotherapist has determined what is impairing your balance, (s)he will design a program of exercises and activities just for you, with an emphasis on strength, flexibility, and proper gait.

All exercises should be planned for maximum safety and security.

If you have balance problems related to the inner ear, physical therapist may also try interventions known as Vestibular rehabilitation. Vestibular rehabilitation includes techniques that help the inner ear respond to a change in position. Conditions that may require vestibular rehabilitation include Vertigo, Dizziness, or Nausea.

Eye exercise for balance

eye-exerciseStep 1.

Focus your eyes on a target 10-20 feet away while you change from sitting to standing and back again with your eyes OPEN. Make sure that you land softly when you sit!

Step 2.

Repeat with your eyes CLOSED.

Step 3.

Feel the position of your body as you move.

Be sure that you keep your weight forward on the front of your feet, knees apart, Chest forward, and spine erect feet, may lack the flexibility and range of motion necessary to avoid falling.

Strength, flexibility, and endurance are crucial to maintaining balance and preventing falls.

Half circle sway

sway-exerciseIf you have experienced falls or problems with balance,  get your physiotherapist’s permission before doing this exercise.


Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart.  Hold something for safety.  Breathe deeply and relax.


Lean forward slowly from the ankles, without bending at the hips. Feel how about 70% of your body weight is now on the balls of your feet.

step 3.

Return to the neutral starting position. Now, lean slowly to the left. Feel how about 70% of your body weight is on the left sides of your feet.

step 4.

 Return to the upright position. This time lean slowly to the right, feeling the shift in your weight.

step 5.

Now put it all together: Practice making graceful half-circle sways from left to center to right and back again. Begin with small half circles, and gradually increase to see how far you can move your body without taking a step.

Even if your basic perception of balance is good you have normal vision and no inner ear problems you can still be at risk for falls if your muscles are weakened or stiff, or if you tire easily.

Older adults, particularly those with osteoporosis have very valid concerns about falling and often restrict their physical activities to prevent such a mishap.  Physiotherapy can help you learn to maintain higher levels of strength, flexibility, and endurance in a way that still feels safe and secure.  Many Researches indicates that the risk of falling in older adults can be reduced dramatically when specific exercises, activities, and interventions are prescribed by physiotherapists.

There are instances, however, in which physiotherapy alone may not be appropriate. If you have an inner ear disorder, for example, you will need to consult a physician.