Special parents

CompanionshipServicesI grew up in a time when people were not very politically correct or overly sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. It was very common to address people based on some physical characteristic that was prominent. The short one was usually addressed as “Kulla” (which means short in Tamil), the tall one may be “nattay kokku” (Tall crane) and the fat one “gundu” (No points for guessing right here. “Gundu” means fat in Tamil). Those were the decent nicknames. More often than not, nicknames were worse, but the worst ones were reserved for children who were mentally challeged – people who could not even defend themselves.

So, it is not a great surprise when, many years ago, I did not get the drift when somebody referred to another’s child as a special child. When I asked some other adult what was special about the child, they (quite insensitively, in line with the times) explained to me that special child was just a euphemism for a mentally disabled child.

It was only years later, after growing up and having a child of my own, did I truly understand why they are called special children. I realized that all children are special, of course, and that each one comes with a custom build character and has a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncracies. And that special children are special in ways that are not as common and thus require additional care and loving.

Today, I see parents of special children dealing with them with the sensitivity and patience required and succeeding in highlighting what is truly special about them. The biggest common traits I see among such parents are, one, they have all been able to truly accept their children as they are, and two, are able to calmly manage the behaviour of their special children, whether it is withdrawal on one extreme, or hyper-activity at the other.

Just as special children require our understanding and care, those of us with parents with neurological conditions need to realize that our parents are “special parents” too.
We need to accept that people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, or other forms of dementia are not trying the make life difficult for their children and care givers. They have become more difficult to handle because of neurological changes and conditions that they have no control over.

Here’s hoping we all have the patience, resilience, and strength of mind to look after our special parents and ensure that they have a caring and loving family around them till the end.

Live-in relationships among seniors

senior_companionshipDignity foundation had a seniors companionship day last week and I was invited to moderate a debate on the concept of live-in relationships among seniors.

It was very heartening to see that Dignity was making people think about such topics generally considered taboo in our society and it was doubly delightful to find quite a few people among the seniors approaching this topic with a positive frame of mind.

The discussants (a new word I learnt recently) were Dr. Prakash, a family physician and pain and palliative care specialist and a dignity member and YWCA office bearer Ms. Sundara Gopalan on the “For” team and an Advocate Mr. Raja Narayanan and Ms. Meera Raghavendra Rao, a freelance journalist and blogger on the “Against” team.

Dr. Prakash talked about loneliness and the concomitant problems associated with loneliness  that many senior citizens are facing today and how companionship could help keep people happy and stave off illnesses, especially the mental ones.

Ms. Sundara Gopalan spoke from the heart and urged the audience and her fellow panelists to keep their hearts and minds open to possibilities.

The advocate Mr. Raja Narayanan, an experienced orator and humorist, kept the audience in splits with his incisive jokes and anecdotes. Being against the concept of live-in relationships he highlighted legal, cultural and social issues associated with concepts blindly copied from the west.

Ms. Meera similarly emphasized on the social stigma associated with living outside marriage and how this can lead to ostracization of parents and the children.

Finally, we threw the floor open to the audience and it was again heart-warming to note the open-mindedness of most of the people there.

As a moderator and judge, I felt that the “for” team was more forward thinking and coming at the issue from a need-based perspective and were able to clearly highlight the absolute need for companionship and the health benefits of relationships.

The “Against” team worried about what society might think rather than thinking of what is good for oneself.

While Spock has very famously said that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, I am of the firm believe that the needs of the few far outweigh the prejudices of the many. If all the senior citizens decide to be supportive of those that are open to giving love and companionship another chance, the society will automatically change its attitude(after all, what is society but us?).

Here’s to many more such thought provoking discussions. My sincere thanks to Ms. Aruna Damodharan and Dignity foundation for a wonderful evening and wish them the very best.

Please send in your views.  You can leave comments to this post or send an email to info@oldisgoldstore.com

Tonic Tours – First trip report

On Wednesday 29th of May 2013, the day after Agni Nakshatram ended, our first Tonic Tour took a gang of 10 senior citizens (oldest being 89 years young) to Dakshinachitra as planned.  The air-conditioned coach left at 9:30 AM from our office and reached back at 3 PM right on schedule.

“First day I did not get up and say what am I going to do today?.  Thanks for making this a wonderful day” said one 85 year old man, while his wife agreed with much gusto!

“My mother really enjoyed it, especially the pottery session”, said a happy son who called in the next day.

Though the weather was reasonably pleasant for the time of year, it was nevertheless a rather hot day.  As we were returning after a sedate half day of watching pottery and glass blowing demonstrations followed by lunch,  we thought the gang would be too tired to talk.  To our surprise,  all of them had only one question to ask – “Where are we going next?”

To the spirited people who traveled on our first tour, a big thank you!  Your words of appreciation are to us the wind beneath our wings.

Here’s to many more such trips.

Products for light incontinence

It has been estimated that light incontinence affects over 30% of people over the age of 18 at some point in time in their lives. Obviously, this problem and the percentage affected increases with age.

For women, if you have had a few children, if you are overweight, if you are athletic, if you are a regular coffee drinker, if you have had a hysterectomy, or suffer from bladder infection, in all likelihood, you will experience light incontinence sooner or later. In fact, studies show that 1 in 3 women suffer from the ocassional “spritz”, sometimes while laughing, or going over a speed bump or some such common daily activity. Many women use sanitary pads for protection, but these pads, not meant for this purpose, obviously are not the most appropriate.

As for men, with age, men too suffer ocassional bouts of mild incontinence. Alcohol, caffiene, overhydration, bladder irritation, certain medicines, prostate issues, urinary tract infections or blockages, bladder stones, can all be causes for mild to moderate incontinence.

What should be used under these circumstances are incontinence pads of various kinds that are available. These are not adult diapers (which are only for people with moderate to heavy incontinence), but smaller, lighter, more comfortable and completely discreet pads that will absorb the ocassional drop and keep you dry and odor-free.

For women, the pads are very similar to sanitary napkins in terms of putting it on, though they are quite different in design. The pictures below show what they look like and how they should be worn.  These come in Normal, Extra and Plus depending on the level of incontinence.

For men, the mild incontinence products are probably nothing like anything you have seen before!

Depending upon how mild (or not), the incontinence, there are several kinds with variations from one brand to another (obviously this is a green field with a lot of fluidity in the design). The only common thing about these pads is that most of them dont work with a boxer type, loose-fitting underwear. So if you are the boxer type, you may want to change to a brief type underwear first.

For seriously mild incontinence (a drop every now and then), the following should work (Seni Man Active).

For slightly greater leakage, the one below should work (Seni Man Normal).

For men with sudden spritzes, but less than moderate incontinence, the super absorbent type (Seni Man Super) shown below should leave you feeling high and dry.

Remember, incontinence is a problem that is only mildly irritating if you can take care of it properly. However, do check with the doctor to ensure that there are no other serious underlying causes for your incontinence.

To buy light incontinence products, go here.