Photo credit: Mokra
In the case of almost 99% non-resident Indians (NRIs), their parents, for a plethora of reasons, live back home. This can be a matter of constant worry. As age catches up with their parents, not being immediately available in the case of an emergency not only concerns them, it also makes them guilty. Uncalled for, but it does.
As households across India move away from the age-old joint family system, it has resulted in an erosion of the support system to take care of elders in the family.
A UN-supported survey by the NGO Agewell Foundation of 10,000 elderly respondents (age 60+) across India, 68.5% pointed to the loss of the joint family system as one of the leading challenges in terms of receiving long-term, palliative care.
Here, we examine five major causes for concern NRIs have regarding their elderly parents back home.
Health and wellbeing:
There is no denying that health services and indicators in India have improved significantly. Life expectancy has gone up from 49.7 years in 1970-75 to 67.8 years, according to the latest Sample Registration Survey (SRS).
Longer lives come with an increase in age-related health issues. Unfortunately, most seniors suffer from at least one chronic condition. Most common of which include heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Cognitive, sensory, and physical functions are also impacted as people get older and this can result in them getting hurt.
Due to declining reflexes, the elderly are also especially vulnerable to falls, a leading cause of injury amongst this group.
For NRIs, not physically present with their parents, ensuring that their parents’ health issues and general wellbeing are managed is crucial.
Health concerns about parents span taking medication on time, being careful not to slip and fall, keeping doctors’ appointments, whether they are eating healthy, and so on. Having a proxy in place to keep track of these can go a long way in reassuring NRI children of their parents’ health.
Safety and security:
Photo credit: Chris Cockram
Agewell Foundation survey (Insert link https://www.agewellfoundation.org/images/Independence-in-Old-Age-Long-term-n-Palliative-care-in-India-June-2018.pdf) points that around 24% of respondents live alone and around 49% live with only their spouse, exposing them safety threats. 52.4% of the Elders said that they had faced some manner of harassment or mistreatment.
72% of respondents are not aware of the measures and services in place by the government to ensure the safety and protection of elderly citizens living on their own.
In light of this, being concerned about the safety of one’s parents back in India is natural. Setting up safeguards to protect elderly parents back in India and making sure they have someone to reach out to for help is important.
An emergency concerning an elderly parent can be an anxious situation, and not being able to reach immediately because of being in another country can make it guilt-ridden as well.
In certain extreme cases, no one may even know of the emergency if the senior is not able to raise an alarm. For NRIs, it is vital to ensure that there is someone trusted who can check in on their parents regularly and respond to any emergencies should they arise.
Ensuring that elderly parents back home get the best possible care is something everyone desires. But depending on the level of care and if certain special needs exist, this can become an expensive endeavour. It is important to plan ahead for this eventuality and keep aside resources for the same, particularly if the parents are dependent on their children financially.
According to the Agewell Foundation study, only 37.8% of the elderly respondents said they enjoyed financial independence. Financial and legal planning, as well as insurance, can help NRIs pay for a range of services.
For the elderly, particularly those who live alone and may not be as able as they once were, loneliness can become a major part of life. This is exacerbated by the fact that their family is not around or they don’t have many opportunities for socialisation.
Nearly 40% of seniors surveyed admitted to having psychological issues, and of those, more than 82% said this was because of loneliness and isolation. This is definitely a concern for NRIs with elderly parents back home, and one that can be dealt with to an extent through regular communication. Putting in place measures that allow for an active social life for one’s parents is also important and choosing living arrangements that are suitable is vital.
If you are an NRI with elderly parents back home, you are likely to be familiar with some of these issues. Reach out to us at Elder Care and let us help you find the best solution for your needs and your parents’.