It hurts me to write about this issue because I personally do not advocate this concept. Nonetheless, ignorance of such an issue is never a bliss.
When I was specializing in Geriatric Medicine, as a part of the curriculum, on a rotational basis, we had to do practical work in hospices and old-age homes.
After treating the old patients there, I usually used to have mixed feelings. It was painful to see elderly parents being dumped in old-age homes by their children. But at the same time, I would think about the plight of those ageing parents who have been abandoned by their children in their own homes.
Such abandoned elderly parents at least have someone to look after them in old-age homes. I used to thank Allah that in Kashmir we still have close family ties and respect and love for elders and especially parents. Hence, I never used to support the idea of an old-age home in Kashmir.
After completion of my specialization, I started treating elderly patients in Kashmir. Since elderly patients have unique complaints, their treatment protocol also happens to be unique.
As part of history taking, we have to ask the patient who is accompanying them to the hospital and who is their caretaker at home. As the time passed, I gradually got disillusioned with the value system in Kashmir. I compiled the data for two years.
Astonishingly, more than 60% of my patients used to come alone to the hospital for treatment without any attendant. Around 35-40 % of elderly patients had attendants with them.
Majority of the attendants were their unmarried sons (55%), followed by their daughters (35%) and lastly their married sons or daughter-in-law (5-8%).
The study also revealed that around 75% of the elderly patients were victims of Elder Abuse ranging from abandoning parents, neglecting parents, not taking care of their health needs, mental torture, verbal abuses, not taking care of their financial needs, blackmail, emotional abuse and so on. Shamefully, in majority of the cases, the perpetrators of elder abuse were their own sons, especially after their marriage.
Case 1: Two sons, one daughter. Father dies. Sons get married. Fraudulently get their mother to sign a document in the pretext of expanding business. Mother learns that the sons have sold the house and bought separate houses for themselves. As mother and her unmarried daughter didn’t get a place in the house of any of her two sons, they live in a room adjacent to the local Mosque on the Zakat of neighbors.
Case 2: Three sons, one daughter. As mother had died earlier, daughter takes father to Jammu on Durbar Move. On their return they realize that the sons have produced a fake death certificate of their father and forged the signature of their sister and sold the whole property and distributed it among themselves. Father was compelled to stay with his daughter.
Case 3: Two sons, father died earlier. Sons motivated their mother to sell the old house and build two new houses at one place. All of them lived happily till one of the sons got married. Unmarried son took his mother and lived in another house. Then he got married. Now an ailing mother has no place to live. She is in a rented room, alone waiting to die.
Case 4: Two well off sons and two daughters. All got married, daughters living outside the country. Sons built their houses in Kashmir and abandoned their aged parents. Once a father got admitted in the hospital and since he had no attendant with him, his sons were called and none of them turned up. This old couple are financially independent, however live alone in their house.
Stories will go on and on…………….
In many cases, I did see sons and even daughters-in-law taking care of their parents in the best possible way. But this number is not enough to overshadow and ignore the plight of the majority of elderly parents who are being mistreated and neglected.
Considering the above facts, I am putting this open question to all that
DO WE NEED OLD-AGE HOMES IN KASHMIR?
I request Hon’ble High Court Judges, UT administration, religious scholars of all faiths, civil society, retired employees unions and associations, and everyone else to share their opinion about this important issue because senior citizens too have RIGHT TO LIFE and RIGHT TO DIGNITY.
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