Nyumba Ya Wazee (Part One)

Old patients who have suffered debilitating strokes are the hardest to take care of. These ones need round the clock nursing. After suffering a stroke, most old people never recover fully. They are forced to live with the residual effects of the stroke. These people, will, most of them for the rest of their lives, need help in carrying out virtually every activity of daily living. They will need help with getting to bed, turning, feeding, urinating, pooping, showering, dressing, brushing their teeth et cetera. Most of these people will also need at least two weekly visit to a physiotherapist and regular check-ups by a doctor.

Now most of us have terribly failed our ailing parents and grand-parents. Because we are perpetually busy looking for money to buy food, property, pay hospital bills and repay the Chinese people their loans, we rarely are able to be there to provide this kind of care to them. A few of us try. We employ house-helps to stay with them and do all things on our behalf. But the house-helps soon get overwhelmed. And the fact that old people are stubborn doesn’t help make matters any better. So our old relatives end up staying alone. They sleep on one side for enough days till we are able to squeeze a few minutes in our busy routines to turn them. The result is the big ugly bed sores that almost each one of them has. Some skip meals and their drugs, and physiotherapy.

Photo courtesy/ nation.co.ke

The only thing that we try to do is take them to the hospital when their clinic days are due. But no one stays around to turn them two hourly, to change their beddings, to help them wash up or even to administer their drugs. But when their clinic days are due, we show up in our cars, wash them up and bundle them into the back seats. We march to their clinics and demand to see the doctors, make a lot of noise about delays, demand for lots of tests, get the medication and drop them off in their miserable homes.

Some of us even walk to the hospital and demand that our parents be hospitalized in the best possible sections of the wards. Because we can’t take care of them at home. We want nurses and doctors to keep our old in the hospital and do everything in the hospital. Maybe this works, in private hospitals. Public hospitals are however no place to dump our old. Those places are teeming with humanity and disease causing organisms thrive in the hospital air.

That is why we need to have this conversation about homes for the old and sickly. Instead of pretending to be nice African children, we need to embrace anything that would make our lives easier. How about we admit these old people in professional homes where there are people to take care of them around the clock? How about we admit them there and never worry about them missing their drugs, or overdosing, under dosing or worse still, being found dead alone? We could let them go there then try and visit them as often as is possible.

Homes for the old might not be popular in these sides of the world but we can make them friendly. Have qualified people to see to the needs of these old people. Design nice games for them to play. Arrange road trips for them et cetera.