Spare a thought for senior caregivers

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This morning a shared documentary on child brides made me wonder how often traditions and now by extension, practices or systems, contribute to marginalising people.

As a mother I could easily enough picture my own daughters in the glittering costumes and make-up of age-old customs that belies the awfulness of the situation these girls were caught up in. Shudder!

What captured my attention though, was the image of a young girl covered in a sheet before being moved to the home of her new husband. The reason? “…To keep her from finding her way home should she escape”. Perhaps this is survival in its purest form – ‘food security’ over ‘mental health’, but nonetheless, clearly tradition is supporting the loss of an existing support network.

While mulling this over, an image of a dear friend whose adult special needs daughter has been ‘banned’ from going to a local shopping centre by the shopping centre’s management team, crept into my mind. A sad marginalising result that partly came about because well-meaning locals for years aggravated the daughter’s often bad behaviour through appeasing her with gifts in spite of her parents’ protests. How can she now understand that you can’t have everything you see?

One family of senior caregivers have to support their often violent adult child 24/7 and at times must resort to physical restraint at risk of personal injury to themselves or others. Another 70+ year-old couple has been changing the diapers of their two offspring for 38 years.

They all try to bear their lot with dignity, but their by the year frailer and ageing bodies can’t compensate. As time passes, the task of maintaining a high quality service for their much loved child(ren), becomes more of a physical and mental struggle, not less.

My heart clenches. As an observer I feel our systems are failing the senior parents of ageing special needs people. We have a silent elderly demographic group that is so busy coping with the demands of keeping their adult children safe and healthy, that they have neither time nor the energy to speak up, lobby or even yell for help. By the time the professionals step in in a time of crisis, it is many years too late and the parents themselves in dire need of extended support.

But until then, it is not only the care requiring person, but also the primary caregivers that end up marginalised…

How do we overcome this? Where do we start?


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