20 February 2010

I was looking through some of what I saved on my comp, wondering what I could junk, and came across this.......
"One of the dangers in any kind of eldercare program is that caregivers may “infantilize” the elderly, forgetting that, even with childlike needs, they are still adults, according to Sonia Salari, a specialist in aging and intergenerational issues at the University of Utah. Baby talk, nicknames, scolding, time-outs and silly d├ęcor may be appropriate for children, but directed at elderly adults, Ms. Salari argues, they are a form of abuse." This is from here.
I noted this down when I came across it, because this is something I feel strongly about. I have seen various older people (not necessarily very old) in the evenings of their lives and have noticed this tendency to 'infantilize' them. I particularly remember one old lady, who had been one of the earliest gynaecologists, probably, in our state. She had had a stroke and must have been in her late 80s. We were visiting her and I remember somebody was trying to cajole her into eating, just like one would with a small child. This incident must have taken place atleast 20 years ago. I can still remember the look in her eyes, helpless (beause she could no longer talk) at the the indignity she felt.
I tried never to do that with my father during his dementia times. Sometimes it is very difficult, especially when the person does not want to eat the food he/she should, or do something they ought to but won't. It is also very difficult to hold on to your irritation. I absolutely agree on that point and that to keep one's equilibrium, one needs help in dealing with an old person in that stage. But if we would imagine ourselves in that place even once, we might find it easier to treat that older person as an adult (unless of course they have always been the infantile, immature kind of person!).


  1. My grandmother, my father's mother, was a tiny woman, an inch shy of five feet, who lived to be 102. When she was in her late 90s, I remember we were all out to lunch somewhere, and I went with my grandmother when she went to "powder her nose", but in actuality she snuck outside to smoke a cigarette (ladies of her generation never smoked in front of men).

    While we were standing outside, a woman in her forties or so came up, a stranger, and shook her finger tsk-tsk-tsk and in a sickeningly babyish tone admonished my grandmother, "At your age, you should know better."

    My grandmother's head snapped upward to look directly at the woman, and in a firm voice, my grandmother said, "At my age, I am trying to die. The strange woman was horrified and sort of huffed herself off, but I couldn't stop laughing for days.

  2. I've seen the confidence my mother and mother in law had even when bed ridden. Their words of advise as well as awareness of what was going on around them made us realize that they were very much in control. But things are different with many others who behave like children and throw a tantrum for nothing. But I do agree that their dignity ought to be respected whatever be their state of mind. I've heard of an aunt being treated as if she were a spoilt kid by her children.

  3. The trouble is that the younger people act as though they are never going to be old and dependent. It just takes a bit of compassion to be nice to an older infirm person - if someone isn't capable of that, I have no respect for any other accomplishment they may boast of. First they must learn to be human before they can talk of anything else.
    Sometimes the older people are also responsible for the way they are treated because they seem to belive they are a burden.I loved Esbee's story above.

  4. Yes, Esbee's story was great! Esbee, your grandmom must have been quite a woman!
    HHG and Usha, There are of course people who always like being treated as though they are helpless creatures and naturally such people would only expect more of that when they age. But people who have been strong,confident people but who may end up with senile dementia or Alzheimer's.do need to be treated with dignity, even though they may act childlike.

  5. I think I have learned something.I am glad I have gone through this post.

  6. Esbee, what a delightful, amusing story! You're grandmother sounds as if she was a wonderful character:)

    Sue, I agree entirely. I went through the same process and feelings with my father in law:(

  7. Just stopped by to say hello.How are you doing.I have been away for a long time but I am back.This was an interesting read, i think sometimes people forget that these eldery people were once vibrant citizens with jobs and families and they do not need to be talked down to.

  8. Hi Starry! Nice to see you back.


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