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  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Small word, big problem
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  PEOPLE who have studied English as a second language tell me that three of the biggest challenges they encount  
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Back to infancy -- they need you!
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a beautiful quote that summed up life so beautifully in a few words. "People were created to be loved and things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is that things are being loved and people are being used".

The quote attracted many likes and shares, the Facebook way of showing consent! I kept pondering over it, recapitulating the classroom lectures emphasizing human life and the related issues. I could relate it to the ongoing societal issues as well, where in, many old people are not treated the way they deserve.

Human life, the years of one's existence, as the teachers taught, could be divided into many stages -- infancy, childhood, adolescent years, adulthood, to name a few. Interestingly, the studies on human life generally began with a brief note on conception, the very beginning of human life. From here only, we as students could relate how the relationship between the parents and the offspring dominates all the stages to follow.

Parental role across various stages

A stage-wise study of human existence shows the involvement of parents at every step. Beginning with infancy, parents familiarize the child with the environment outside the womb. From a toddler's attainment of self-awareness to his learning of the expression of emotions, parental role is pivotal.

Early childhood brings in more responsibilities as the youngster accomplishes more tasks in the light of the developmental programs. Issues related to school, siblings, play, eating etc. add on to the existing execution of the tasks learnt.

Then comes the adolescence, the stage accentuating the disagreements between the first school (parents) and the student (the teen) regarding career choices, relationship problems and many other issues. Swaying through the turmoil, the teen now becomes an adult.

The early adulthood phase brings in new establishments and liabilities that strengthen the bonds between the parents and their grown-up children. Parenthood, marital responsibilities, occupational decisions, relationships, family ties, all require the governance of the experienced ones, the parents. During the middle adulthood, an individual actually gets a chance to be in his parents' shoes but the sane advice of the parents (now the grandparents) is still acclaimed.

Stage where child's role is pivotal

All the above stages define the role played by parents in their child's life as mother/father or as grandparents in the long run. A quick review of the above mentioned stages shows that there isn't a single stage where a parent's role is not required and there is just ONE stage where a child’s role in a parent's life is needed the most. Yes! The old age -- the stage that demands utmost care and patience in taking care of the elderly.

Old age and the related problems

The stage is typified by a change in self-concept, wherein, an individual undergoes a series of physiological and psychological changes. A wide variety of emotional and behavioural problems set in. Physical disabilities coupled with other health issues lead to a wide variety of problems. Anxiety, panic attacks, insecurities, deteriorating health and other problems such as Alzheimer's disease are very common. Loss of partner and the resulting loneliness is another causative factor that leads to emotional problems. Another change is the increase in dependence on others. This is generally seen among people who require special care due to their medical condition. This also leads to a change on the behavioural and emotional front.

Tips for caregivers

Caregivers (whether children and grandchildren) need to spend quality time with the elderly. Loss of physical strength and mental capabilities may force the person to behave indifferently but this sense of loneliness can be dealt with in an effective manner. One should understand that anxiety and panic attacks are a result of the ageing process that leads to insecurities, health issues etc. Patience is the key to deal with patients who have neurological problems like Alzheimer's. There is no cure for it. The elderly may exhibit certain symptoms of diseases which may not be well understood and may go unnoticed. Regular health checkups and following medical advice is recommended in such cases.

Thus earnest efforts need to be put in to take care of the elderly. After all, this is the only stage that requires a child's role in its real terms. This reminds me of another group on FB that encourages children not to put their parents in old age homes and not to forget what they did for them!
The writer is a Chandigarh-based psychologist.
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