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.

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.

New York times looks at family care giving from an NRI Perspective

New York times blog regularly covers issues relating to senior citizens in USA.  Many of the issues addressed are relevant to India as well.  Their latest entry talks about how NRIs cope with long-distance caring situations where the parent(s) live in India and need to be monitored regularly.

19noa-pande-blog480How many people who come to America for an education or a job and stay eventually become transnational caregivers — people who care for relatives or friends across national boundaries? No one really knows. But there’s certainly a long tradition of cross-border family interactions in this nation of immigrants.

Both historically and today, financial support from people who come to the United States flows to relatives across oceans, and south to Mexico and Central and Latin America. Some immigrants spend parts of the year here and in their countries of origin, looking after young children or older parents left behind.

 But the dynamics of these arrangements are different now because of two major trends. Across the world, people are living longer: more immigrants have aging relatives in distant lands in their 70s, 80s or 90s, with all the related medical and social issues.

Meanwhile, technology has transformed how people can communicate over long distances and altered expectations of what people can do for far-flung relatives. Whereas letters once took weeks to cross an ocean and phone service was scarce in Africa, Asia and rural areas of other continents, today video chats occur in real-time and almost everyone has cellphones.

Makes for real interesting reading.  To read more, go here.


Book review: The Complete Eldercare Planner

BookReview1_CompleteEldercarePlannerThis is a guide to manage the care of your aging family.  Though it is written in the context of the western world, much of what is written is equally applicable to the millions of family caregivers across India.

Excerpt from the first page:

The caregiving journey will take you to places unimaginable, and in the process you will learn more about yourself than ever belfore.  Each day has the potential to bring to the surface life-altering issues and events that offer you the opportunity to develop skills and talents you never knew you had – resourcefulness, stamina, flexibility, and faith, to name a few. You won’t come away from the caregiving experience the same as when you started, nor will you look at life, and death, in the way you did before.

The review on Amazon says:

As our population shifts and ages, the care needs for our elders continue to change and evolve. Today’s generation of family and professional caregivers faces new decisions and challenges, as well as previously unavailable options. This thoroughly revised and updated 2009 edition of The Complete Eldercare Plannerequips you with reliable, up-to-the-minute information to help you plan and manage caring for your loved ones.

Comprehensive and detailed, sensitive and realistic, practical and accessible, the 2009 edition provides even more tips on prioritizing and organizing caregiving tasks, balancing work and family responsibilities, and navigating the complex maze of eldercare services. In addition to an expanded index of Internet resources and access to downloadable forms of key documents, you’ll find indispensable checklists, worksheets, step-by-step action plans, lists of questions to ask, low-cost and free alternative resources, and The Document Locator™. This new edition covers:

•Getting started on creating a long-term care plan
•Finding help, especially if you live far away
•Managing the financial aspects
•Talking to elders about sensitive subjects
•Senior housing–move or stay put?
•Managing medications
•And many other topics of vital interest to anyone caring for an elder

To buy this book go here.

Family care givers support group

RamaCareOver tens of millions of urban families in India have elders, who need special care and support, living at home.  Most of this care and support is provided by close family members – the spouse, children, close relatives and neighbours.  Only a few realize that taking care of elders/loved ones, who are no longer capable of taking care of themselves,  without any formal training can be very stressful and strenuous.  Watching loved ones suffer and struggle through the simplest of task and not being able to help in the best way possible results in many of the care givers ending up with depression.  As there are no support groups or NGOs looking after the needs of the family care giver community, these people, doing one of the most difficult jobs, are pretty much left to fend for themselves.

Ms. Rama Murali, a care giver herself, has taken it upon herself to start a self-help group for care givers and has come up with an entity called Care cubed along with a group within IIT-Madras.  She wants to see how technology can help care givers support each other.  The first planned meeting of care givers is slated for April 6th 2013 at Hotel Savera, Chennai.

If you are a family care giver and wish to participate in the session, please write to


Patient Care

In all the developed countries, there are well established old-age homes that provide a protected, safe and nurturing environment for their senior citizens that helps them lead an independent and fruitful life.

In India, a similar environment was provided by the joint family structure.  However, with the breaking of that tradition and the emergence of nuclear families, the required structure to take care of the elderly has been shattered and it is now becoming increasingly difficult for the aging Indian population to lead a safe and comfortable life.  In most families, the responsibility of looking after elderly parents rests on the shoulders of the children, who are in many ways not competent to handle the complexities involved, especially when the parents are no longer able to take care of themselves fully.

This section contains collated and curated information that is meant to help amateur care givers do a better job of looking after the elderly in their homes.  However, for all serious matters, please do approach and take on the services of professional care givers.

Wheel Chair – Safety Precautions

Here are some simple things you need to check and do to ensure that the person sitting in the wheel chair is safe.

1.  When you are wheeling the patient within the house, the passages and door ways may be narrow and hence care should be taken that the patient’s elbows are not jutting out.

2.  Similarly, for patients with weak neck muscles, the head may fall sideways suddenly and care should be taken to ensure that they do not end up banging their heads on the walls and doorways.

3.  When pushing the wheel chair down a slope, it is always best to roll the wheel chair backwards so that there is no chance of the patient falling off the wheel chair.










4.  When footrests are available, always make sure that the patients legs are placed firmly on the footrests.  This will prevent the feet from scraping the floor and getting scratched or twisted.