Dadaji Daycare

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
My grandfather, my only living grandparent, is 92 years old. A couple of months ago, he went to live at a nursing home. After spending the past thirty-odd years living with his son in London, he began to fall down at night during his frequent bathroom trips, and my uncle and aunt found themselves unable to take care of all his needs. His nursing home is reportedly a nice, clean facility that caters to elderly Indians in Britain. The staff serves Indian food and speaks Indian languages. They play religious songs in the morning and Hindi movies in the evening. My grandfather told me over the phone that the young women there take care of him as if they were his daughters.

But they are not his daughters. His three daughters are here, in the U.S. They are living their independent lives, and he is in a nursing home. It’s a big deal in my family; we’ve always talked about nursing homes as if they’re an evil byproduct of Western culture, and sworn up and down that our parents will never end up in one. We’ve viewed them as a place where people selfishly abandon their parents, and proudly declared that as Indians, we will never do that. Our parents took care of us – changed our diapers, stayed up at night when we were sick, supported us at our lowest – and we would do the same for them. Yet, after long and difficult discussions with my uncle, my mother and her sisters realized a nursing home was the only option for him. Home care is very expensive; in Britain, his nursing home is virtually paid for. Even if they all got together and paid for home care, would he be better off at his son’s home? Relegated mostly to his room or a sick bed in the family room, unable to take part in the daily hustle and bustle around him? I’ve seen elderly parents like that as well, and they always seem to be neglected – someone to go and pay your respects to or briefly tend to, and then gently leave to go sit in another room.

The truth is that the quality of life for the elderly sucks, the world over. My parents-in-law and their friends have a novel idea: when the time comes, they will all create and fund an Indian nursing home in the area, and then go live in it together. That way, they can support each other as they grow old – a commune of elderly desis who already have spent most of their life together and treated one another as family. I hope this happens. Maybe then, we'll have a path to follow when it's our turn to fall down at night, and our children can no longer pick us up.
Shrooms said...

I actually think this is a great idea. I'm in public health and have done some community-based work with South Asians in NYC, and elderly issues have always been of great concern to me. Thanks for addressing it...

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