Sunday, April 06, 2014

"Why Aren't there Geriatric Homes in Kuwait?"

What they are teaching kids in school these days

As I do every Friday, I had lunch with Clean's family (now "my" family).  Let me re-phrase to accommodate my Kuwaiti dad who tells me to say this, 'I had lunch with my Kuwaiti family....'

I have more frank/open discussions about religion within the family than anywhere else.  No one's feathers get ruffled.  No one gets offended.  It is genuine curiosity on both sides.  I hear a lot about Islam (not all of it true as it is often relayed through YouTube videos made by well-intentioned people who interpret it to their perception); generally from the younger brothers in the family.  Dad always steps in and corrects them (and then shouts at them for believing stuff that they've heard on the internet).  I love that man.

Anyhow, I was sitting with the girls and one was doing her English homework so she asked me to help (along with one of the older sisters who speaks English well).  The subject was geriatrics and one of the questions (from a Kuwaiti public school) was, "Why do you think there are no geriatric homes in Kuwait?"  and the "appropriate" answer (as listed on their form) was "because Islam teaches Muslims to honor their mother and father."

While that is very true, so do most religions of the world - including the Western world where the Bible says the same thing.  Does it mean that Christians (or Jews or others) don't honor their parents?

My opinion is that Kuwait will have more geriatric homes in the future - and that it has nothing to do with religion.  It has to do with a working culture.

Even 10-15 years ago in Kuwait, mothers stayed at home to take care of their children.  Now, most couples both work and the children are left in the care of nannies (or if they can afford it - day care centers).  I don't know of any Kuwaiti families personally that have elder family members living at home (I'm talking really elder - like over 80).  I don't know because the parents have either passed away or are younger than 80.  Western countries also have common geriatric illness such as alzheimer's.  While I don't know the statistics of alzheimer's cases in Kuwait, I suspect that if it is a Western problem, it will soon become a Kuwait problem.  Diets in Kuwait are turning to fast-food; industrialization, pollution.... whatever the cause of an increase in cases may be.  How will an untrained, uneducated maid handle an aging alzheimer's patient? How will a working couple?

It isn't a matter of religion; it is a matter of the best care for the parent.  I do know many people in the States - friends - who have had to make heart-wrenching decisions to put their parents in geriatric homes because they could no longer care for them at home.  These friends are God-fearing people who love and respect their family members.  They worried for their parent's safety and well-being.  It is never an easy decision and I am sure that it comes after much prayer.

I don't think that it is "appropriate" for any school to imply that their is a lack of compassion by any other religion in their duty to their parents.  If anything, schools here should be teaching comparitive religion; showing the similarities to Islam; not creating misunderstanding.


Anonymous said...

If the United States had more cheap labor, didn't have to pay minimum wage, social security, etc. I suspect we would have more elderly who stay at home. With the elderly living so much longer these days (I imagine Kuwait life expectancy has increased dramatically in the last 50 years), taking care of them at the point when they will allow you to take care of them can be an astonishingly overwhelming commitment, if all the weight of the care is on one or two people. Having help in the house makes it possible, but care of the elderly isn't for sissies. There is also a social element; often the elderly, removed from their own familiar surroundings, are so lonely, no longer socializing with their friends. My (long lived) family members have told me it's one of the worst things about growing old - your friends die and you don't have anyone around of your own generation, and it makes you feel all the older. The good thing about some of the retirement homes opening these days is that they provide social and recreational opportunities, as well as professional care, help with meds, help with mobility, help with bathing and shopping, things they used to be able to do for themselves. Many can live on their own, surrounded by their own belongings, with this small assistance.

The other side of the coin is that people without training who take on care of a family elder can become exhausted and, sadly, abusive. Most of my Kuwait friends with elderly parents had a LOT of paid staff. Their parents lived into their 70's and 80's.

Another factor - parents get a vote. People are not forced into group living, they choose it. They don't want to live with their children, they don't want to be marginalized. Interesting times, with interesting and compassionate new solutions as we all live longer.

Desert Girl said...

Intlxpatr - I agree and thank you for sending me your comments.

I had a talk with an American friend last night whose father is in a home in the States. She said it was a difficult decision and she has faced judgement from people here in Kuwait who don't know the full story (they shouldn't be judging regardless). Her father is better where he is; he has a better social life (as his friends can more easily visit him). The home is close to their family home and across the street from their church where everyone knows him and goes to visit him. If left at home in smaller surroundings, he wouldn't have the opportunity to see people or socialize or even get around. Think about this: If an adult is bed-ridden for any reason, how do you get them in and out of bed? It doesn't take one person and in some places in the US, because of insurance reasons, the patient must be hoisted out of bed using a machine. None of this is easy and there are many aspects which judging people haven't considered.

My aunt was in an assisted living complex. She had an normal apartment with emergency buttons in every room; incase she needed help, a nurse would come up to check on her. She had a choice of either cooking her own meals, or going downstairs to have dinner with other residents. She chose to be there.

In some places in the US, retirement villages are so complete that they have their own infrastructures tailored to the elderly (See By the way, these are investment properties! Their value will only increase.

Anonymous said...

I've heard this argument many times (evil selfish west vs kind compassionate Muslims).. HoweveI compare my 95grandmother in an assisted living home (&my late grandfather who had to go into a nursing home in his final year after a series of strokes) with my father in law in Egypt. My grandfather was cared for at home for as long as possible & spent his last years with many loved ones visiting & the medical care he needed. My grandmother chose after his death to move into sheltered accommodation despite my parents having built them a 'granny flat' she preferred the company of her peers as intlxpater said. Both were& are very much loved & respected by the whole family & had (&have) daily visitors. It broke my heart to come here to Kuwait and miss taking th kids to see my grandmother every week. In contrast My father in law in Egypt is incapacitated with a stroke &lives at home with my mother in law. His life consists of sitting in a wheelchair in front of TV & chain smoking. There is constant talk of how much work he is & the burden he places on my mother in law & other relatives.he can still talk& understand things around him - yet these conversations carry on even with him in the room at times. My in laws think its an absolute disgrace how my family have 'treated' my grandmother. Even though she is happy & living the life she wants with the level of independence she wanted...

Anonymous said...

Since I have an arabic speaking and reading - old school type hubby. I am often told about how badly the elderly are treated here. Coincidentally he was just telling me about a woman on the radio scolding the population because now, there is an expression for old people. They are now called 'expired'. With lots off laughing. They are an embarrassment to the young. He has told me for years that people have been dumping their parents in hospitals, then changing their phone numbers etc. and refusing to visit them or get them out of the hospitals and these old people just whither away in the hospital beds. I think it is a combination of factors that make this all happen.
1. We are told in the Koran to take care of parents-big time
2. Its tradition for sons to take care of parents
3. Identity crisis raging here.
4. Extreme peer pressure from all around
5. Focus on the young, youthful. Deny any part of aging.
6. Complete shallowness and materialism.

So i start off by saying that in the Koran it says we are suppose to take care of our parents. I wonder if anyone else notices how they bend over backwards to make sure they don't follow the Koran. The first word in the Koran translates to 'read' Do you ever see anyone with a book? I really really don't want to trash females but i think a big part of this is keeping husbands from his parents. I know he is completely responsible too but sometimes he just wants to keep the peace.

Now in the states its a different thing. There women are expected to do everything. And they do until they can't anymore. Men are not expected to take care of their parents, the running joke on many t.v shows etc. is about sons living with their parents HA!HA! (Also there is big time money making in nursing homes )
So then nursing homes are suppose to be a place to put parents when there are no daughters, or as a last resort? Or the best place to put someone who really needs help and care.? But after saying that, my father and my mothers best friend both went into separate nursing homes at separate times and within a month, both of them fell out of their beds and broke their hips which in turn caused the decline in their health. My mothers best friend died within a month and my father lived for 6 months more.
Karma is a big deal in Islam. Your kids will treat you the way you treated your parents so watch-out!

Anonymous said...

Well, in Kuwait usually the parent's sons and daughters take care of them, and if they're sick they stay at the hospital and their children visit them.