On a night i had wished to be home early, i had to go in the company of my husband and a few friends to intervene in a critical case of a maid whom i will call Silvia. She was incoherent in her speech and had performed an unsafe abortion. Silvia needed to get to a hospital ASAP – as soon as possible, but we had to get her boss involved. So off we went that night to meet her employer. Silvia hesitated at the door, it was obvious she was terrified and didn’t want to go in but we nudged her on. The door to the house was unlocked, and no one came to the door. She pushed the door handle, and a pitch dark room stared us in the face. We could barely see ourselves. An old shriveled voice called out Silvia’s name. It was an elderly woman whom i will call Mama. Her voice gave away her position but we still couldn’t see anything. On hearing our voices as we tried to get Silvia to put on a lamp, Mama asked who we were but soon forgot about us. Finally a lantern was lighted and we saw an old woman sited on a chair in a corner in the living room. She turned out to be Silvia’s employer. Mama was incapacitated. Her children had employed Silvia to take care of their aged mother, who throughout the time we were there did not get up from the chair . She wasn’t coherent either, neither did she challenge us as strangers who invaded her house. Our mission to tell her about Silvia’s condition was aborted. We just couldn’t tell her. Mama was in no condition to hear the news that her care giver /maid was in danger. I was almost sure that she could go into a shock or probably not even understand what we were saying. Our other option was to get in touch with one of Mama’s children and that turned out to be a herculean task. Only Silvia had access to their phone numbers and by then she was not in a good frame of mind; in fact she was mentally unstable as she kept on muttering words that didn’t make sense. We finally found a number on the contacts on her phone. It was a relief to be able to speak to one of Mama’s Sons. We tried to explain the issue at hand, his response left us in shock. He said he wouldn’t be available for another one week! My first thought was , “didn’t he know that his old mother was vulnerable and at a risk to be under the care of a maid who was also in a critical condition”. We became angry, that this man just didn’t care enough for his mother. We were in a dilemma, on one hand there was Silvia, in a confused state of mind needing urgent medical attention and on the other hand, there was no one to take care of Mama. We had to go knocking on the door of their neighbor, because by this time Silvia had fallen down suddenly unconsciously and we had to pick her up several times. She could injure herself and Mama was not safe left in her care either. Fortunately, this neighbor and his wife where concerned enough to get involved. And thankfully too they had the phone number of Mama’s son, so they put a call through to him, and explained that it was a dare situation. They added that we might be forced to report the matter to the police before taking Silvia to the hospital as nobody wanted to be held liable if anything should go wrong. It was only then that this…this..this Mama’s son took the matter seriously! I just couldn’t believe his callous attitude. Though now that i think of it, i am wondering whether i might have judged him too quickly. Finally, we were able to get Silvia to a nearby hospital without Mama even knowing what had happened to her maid. The poor old woman had to be left on her own through the night. I never did find out if she slept in that chair, because she needed someone to move her to her bed. I later learned from their neighbor that Mama uses adult diapers and probably hadn’t being cleaned for days, since Silvia was not in a good frame of mind. It was heart breaking for me, i mean no parent, woman or man should have to go through such demeaning treatment in their old age. This maid might have being abusing the poor old woman in ways no one might ever know.At what point do house maids cross the line in relation to their employers? Can Silvia be totally blamed for Mama’s condition? I am wondering also where the rights of maids begin and end when it comes to getting pregnant while gainfully employed. This i hope to look into in another post, but my concern lies with how our senior citizens are being treated by us (their children), and carers.
I mentioned earlier that i might have judged Mama’s son too quickly….yes that maybe so. I want to give he and his siblings the benefit of doubt that they might have done the best they could. At least they hired a caregiver to live in with their mother and they probably visited as often as they could in the midst of sorting out their own personal lives. But the question is was it enough? Was it the right step? Many people particularly in Africa believe that putting our aged in a home is being ungrateful to a parent. It is believed to be an act of abandoning one’s parent in their old age after all they had sacrificed and invested in our future. There are arguments for and against putting an aged parent in a home. My take on this is , if the elderly is incapacitated like Mama in my story then a live in home care/maid might not be enough. She needs a place where she can access consistent therapy and medical attention; she needs a place where she can make friends with other elderly people.
The care of the elderly might seem easy for children initially but as they age certain health conditions can develop. It therefore becomes difficult to manage the aged person’s care. Reasons for putting an elderly person in a home can be as a result of serious health conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer Disease, chronic Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Heart disease, and many other diseases common to senior citizens.
Loneliness is one big challenge amongst elderly people and often times children are too busy pursuing their own career and goals. They may not even get to see their grandchildren often. In my own little wisdom I’d suggest a few tips to overcoming loneliness in old age. Engage your aged in community activities like old people’s clubs, religious community activities, visit or call your parents as often as possible; allow their grand kids to go and spend sometime with them; move them to live with you when they can no longer move around, that is if it is a condition you all can handle; get them accommodation close to their friends if you can. There has to be a plan to make the life of an elderly person interesting and help them age gracefully. Many times it is the lack of proper information about how to achieve this that makes it difficult to provide the necessary care and support. Children or caregivers need to know the signs to watch out for in order to be able to help their aging parents when their health condition start deteriorating. The task of caring for the elderly looks cumbersome with all the complications but planning ahead might save one the hassles. Parent and children should talk in advance about the kind of care they might need as they age. Reading up about conditions that can arise as one ages. Getting an aged parent into a home care where he/she can get full support can sometimes be the difference between providing safe/adequate care and elder abuse.
I have tried to do a little research on names and addresses of homes and care services for the elderly in Nigeria. Some of them offer day care services where older persons are given therapy and engaged in various interesting activities. Below is a short list i was able to compile for people who might need information about where to get help and care for their aged. A friend who is also a social worker promised me a comprehensive list which i hope to share later as soon as possible.
Note: I am not by this post endorsing any of these elderly care service providers. Please make proper inquiry before engaging their services.
- Rossetti Care,Wahabi Olayiwola Layout, Tose, Moniya, Ibadan, Nigeria.
(off the Lagos /Ilorin expressway)
Tel: +234(0) 7068 633 627
- Wellcare Home Medicals
65, Rasaq Balogun Street,
Off Adebola Street,
Off Adeniran Ogunsanya Street,
Tel: (+234) 01-740 3087
- Regina Mundi Home for the elderly
142/144 Agege Motor Road,
Phone No: 08074588402, 08074589436, 08074589455
- Winiseph Care Home
326 ,Adeyemo Akapo Street, Omole Phase I, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
- Divine Senior Citizens Palace, PDCOS Estate, Akobo, General Gas, Ibadan. Project Manager 08036202001
6.Emmanuel Alayande Rehabilitation Centre, Awotunde Estate Elekuro, Off Olorunde-Aaba Road, Ibadan.
Contact: 0813587562, 08177319368.
7. Chief Tony Anenih Geriatric Center operates rehabilitation services for the elderly: Occupational therapy, meet new friends, day care.University College Hospital, Ibadan
8. Miradora Care Homes
No. 24 Ibironke Crescent,
Maryland, Mende, lagos,
Phone No: +44 794 9094 076
00234 813 460 1328,
By Adebisi Adetunji
Photo Credit: miraimages.photoshelter.com
Meaning of Words:
Mama – Mother, elderly woman