New Delhi: While taking care of the elderly parents continues to be a challenging burden for most of the families in India, a report by HelpAge India, a nongovernmental organization, working for the cause and care of disadvantaged elderly, released on Friday revealed that daughters in law provide majority of care to elderly against sons.
The findings not only go on breaking the preconceived notion that daughters in law are ignorant towards elderly in laws, but also highlight the growing challenge for young generation in extending help and care to the elderly.
The report titled Eder Abuse in India: Role of Family in caregiving - Challenges & responses--A HelpAge India report (2019) that covered 3,000 people in 20 cities across India, focuses on the sandwich generation aged 30–50 years, covering Tier 1 and 2 cities. The study was conducted in May 2019. This is the generation which has to look after their elderly parents and their own children. Interestingly, 68% daughters-in-law caregivers provide physical care to Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) such as help in using telephone, shopping, preparing meals, housekeeping, washing clothes, transportation, taking medicine, against sons (up to 51%).
The report also stated that 29% caregivers in the family mainly son, daughter-in-law, daughter, son-in-law felt the ‘burden of care giving of an elder’ was moderate to severe, while 15% felt a severe burden of care giving, regarding the elderly.
“At least 35% of the caregivers ‘never’ felt happy looking after the elderly. Up to 62% sons, followed daughter-in-law (up to 26%) and daughters (up to 23%) took on the financial burden for daily needs of the elderly. On an average, a family spends Rs.4125 looking after the elderly. 25.7% caregivers felt fatigue and frustration result in aggressive behaviour towards their older relative," the report said.
“What is amazing is that despite the abuse elders might face at home, at the hands of their adult children, they choose to remain within the family ambit. Their solution is always sensitize their children, their primary caregivers, and not move away from the family. It is therefore important to look into space of the Caregiver to understand the burden of elder care and the challenges faced by them," said Mathew Cherian, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) HelpAge India.
The caregivers suggested some measures from the government. They recommended to decrease the ‘burden of care’ looking after the elderly dependents were-- subsidized medicine, better medical transportation facilities, government-supported Old Age Homes, provision of Health Card, free treatment in government medical institutions, GST free and discounted medicines, improved medical staff in government hospitals, medical insurance policy, Mediclaim and transport facility for visiting hospitals.
About 78.1% caregivers felt that no policy or measures were adopted by their employers to help them ease the burden of care giving, regarding elderly at home, the report said. “For only if we are able to understand, can we also empower and encourage the caregivers to look after their elderly parents," said Cherian.
India’s population is ageing with an increase in the number and proportion of older persons in its population. This phenomenon is expected to have significant implications and demands care in terms of health, financial, security. While 8% of India’s population was in the age-group 60 and above as per Census 2011, it is very likely to increase to nearly 20% by 2050.
“It has been noticed that in old age, people with poor health conditions, medical complications, psychological issues, etc have to suffer more due to their helplessness. Lack of awareness about their Human Rights is another major factor responsible for elder abuse," said Himanshu Rath, Chairman, Agewell Foundation, another NGO working towards elder welfare.
“Old Age is an inevitable part of our life. We all will become old one day. We will be better prepared for our old age if we interact with elderly and understand their problems. At the same time there is an urgent need to create greater awareness in the society about needs & rights of older persons," he said.