BY CYNTHIA WAIRIMU
When you have worked hard, and lived through school, work, and parenting, life requires you to step back. It is only after a long while that you will realize that it has caught up with you.
You can choose to invest wisely in the future or you can let it get you down. For instance, say you were a civil servant and at the age of 60 or 55, you are retired and after so many years, you aren’t supposed to go back to work. Instead you are given a parting gift of a pension and now you are home, all day, every day, day after day.
At first it might sound exciting, but in the long run, you will crave the comfort of routine. If you had been preparing yourself well, you might have a farm or a business to fall back on, but if you had encircled your life all around your job, when it comes to an end, it will not be the easiest transition.
Therefore, it is wise to think and plan ahead now, what life you will have after you are retired. The idea of sitting back and resting all day might be luring at the moment, but once you tire of it, and have nothing to fall back on, then you will find yourself in a mindless situation that can be averted if planned on ahead.
One of the things we need to remember is that, there are those, our loved grandparents and parents that are already at this stage in life. It is wise to consider and act upon such things as geriatrics, which is the medical care of the elderly.
When thinking of our grandparents, often the idea is that they live up country and to see them requires a ceremony or a holiday and only then do we visit, eat some well home cooked yams and cassava and then head back to the hustles and bustles of life. It is important to note the following: one gets to a certain age, where they are not working or are retired, where one may feel useless, as if their purpose or use in the society is done and therefore, they are no longer important.
It is also possible to feel depressed after working so long and then not being able to, especially if the funds are misappropriated, and there is no longer a source of monthly income, panic and stress are not unusual. It is important for one to plan ahead, and invest in a business that can keep one busy and active to avoid thoughts of worthlessness as well as to complement an income that will serve to ensure their independence and, psychologically, their dignity.
Also, to remember that being no longer employed does not equate no longer being worthy. One is simply moving from one vital stage of life, to another. There are illnesses that come with being old, such as dementia, bone problems, arthritis, problems with vision and hearing, forgetfulness, memory lapses, thyroid issues, as the body is also aging and one is no longer an active young person.
You will also find that you can’t exercise like you used to, or run errands in quick succession or even work as diligently as once before. You may notice that people (not all though) are not so keen on you especially when you can’t make money as before. Finding that your children are fighting over your property is common though looked down upon and one may feel rushed to die as if their property is all they are worth and nothing more. This is especially disheartening as you may start to come to terms with the idea of death and feel that that is all that’s left to do.
The world is geared or designed to suit the agile and flexible in society and hardly anyone else. Therefore, when disabilities kick in, it feels stacked against you and your life. Not being able to do what you could before such as working, cleaning, bringing in money, you may feel defeated and depressed.
The chances of all of this leading up to being suicidal or depressed are high. If you have an elderly person living with you, or know of one that lives alone, it is important to ensure that objects that can be used to self-harm are removed and put out of sight and reach. Such things as pills, guns, knives, should be kept safely away. It is possible for one to use pillows to suffocate themselves or even ropes or clothes such as shirts to hang themselves. Check on them often and encourage them, while being patient and considerate because things are not what they knew them to be.
Setting up a business is also a good idea where one can sustain oneself. However, it gets to a certain age where even that becomes impossible, say in their 80s and 90s. It is then they require support and care, as well as geriatric care. This way, when a geriatrician is involved, then special care is taken, such as avoiding medication that increase the odds of illnesses that come with old age.
Remembering that the old were once young and so you will be is key in considering the type of care you accord to the elderly. For instance, ensuring that they are in a clean and comfortable environment. Chances of having a incontinence at this age are high and it isn’t the most comfortable thing for a person therefore they may hide it to avert embarrassment and if you make a big show of this being a bother then they may go quiet and suffer in silence.
Cleaning their clothes and themselves may also prove difficult and letting go is not unusual, it is important to take care of these and with zeal, not a face plastered with disgust and mockery. If you can afford it, there are nurses trained in this care and you can hire one, if you can’t, think of ways of making their lives more comfortable and at ease. Eating well and a balanced diet is very important in all stages of life, but one may fall behind when older and it feels like too much effort to even eat. Ensuring they eat a balanced diet and do not starve, even to death is our responsibility.
Being alone, and lonely at this stage happens more times than we can admit. This is another trigger to depression, which should be addressed. Talk to them, visit them often or let them live with you, share stories and most importantly, listen. Listen to their stories, to their mumbling, to their experience, it may even save you at one point or another. Again, ask about how they feel and what they want. Do not act like they are bothering you or dismiss them as they need you and admitting need might be hard.
Regular medical checkups of the heart, kidneys, blood, cholesterol, and body functions is highly encouraged so that one may catch a problem early such as cancer that can save a life. Elder abuse is common though utterly uncalled for and disgusting. Insulting an elderly person for not being able, for being alive, for not catching on, is reprehensible.
It also comes in the form of taking advantage of say their memory loss or lapses to steal money, such as their pension, or property as is common with con artists who trick people into giving up their life savings. If you are not in a position to be there for an elderly parent, there are homes that take them in and it is wise to check in with them often as it is not unheard of to experience abuse and neglect in the hands of nurses and care givers.
Taking all of this into account, let’s not forget that these are our grandparents and even parents and that we too will need care and love when we get to a certain stage in life.
Invest in the future, prepare psychologically for retirement and life after work, as well as financially and know that at one point or the other, the blessing of many years on earth comes with certain cons of our bodies wearing out but this does not in any way constitute being worthless or not being important in life. We are all human beings and as such, our rights and freedoms remain inalienable.