Ellen's book will strengthen and guide you in your role as caregiver to an elder parent or relative, and help you understand your own physical, emotional, mental & spiritual needs.
Feminist Angle Category
This excerpt from An Indian Sojourn describes our time in Shekhawati, Rajasthan, northwest of Jaipur. Upper caste women are all but invisible there and I found the energy to be odd and repressive.
We’re driven through the outskirts of Nawalgarh, near the resort. The community appears plain and arid looking, a working desert town, not gentrified in any way for the tourists. On arrival at Apani Dhani Eco Lodge we’re greeted by Ramesh, the owner. The resort is beautiful; it consists of one-story terracotta huts built in a U-shape around a central courtyard. Flourishing bougainvillea bushes
in a variety of colours creep up to the roof of the central pavilion where guests gather to read, chat, or listen to harmonium concerts. At the end of the courtyard is a building that houses the dining room and kitchen.
A slim, attractive sixty-something man wearing simple white cotton pants and shirt, Ramesh wears traditional Rajasthani white stud earrings in both earlobes. His bearing is aristocratic. Ramesh is a devout Hindu and a member of the Rajput caste, the second highest in the state; he’s multilingual in English, French and German, as well as Indian dialects, having lived in Europe for several years. There he became interested in the environment and Swedish and German ecology, he explains. Our host still spends a third of each year in Europe and half of Apani Dhani’s clientele is French. Ramesh’s altruistic values, common among higher caste Indians, are reflected in the fact that 5 percent of the resort’s gross earnings are contributed to a school for handicapped children.
I initially find Ramesh’s manner somewhat superior and off putting; while clearly used to being in charge, he does prove to be a congenial host. Later I experience something similar with our Goa hotel owner. This may be reverse snobbery on my part, having little to do with Indian culture and more bearing on my own class background and politics…
The cosmopolitan Ramesh reverts to tradition when at home, and each room of the lodge has a binder with an exhaustive list of traditional Hindu customs and guidelines that clearly demonstrate this. Both males and females are advised to cover most of their body: “No sleeveless t-shirts or shorts, transparent or revealing clothing, no braless look; wear a long sleeve t-shirt or shirt covering the buttocks for women”, (the last is traditional in most of India, even in the more progressive South).
Some of the French tourists, perhaps unable to read the English-only guidelines, bare their legs and arms. Always attempting to dress modestly in India, respecting the cultural norms, I feel controlled by “the book of rules”, and by the atmosphere in this ultra conservative setting. There’s a sensation of being watched and I likely would have opted not to come here had we known more about the place beforehand.
Alcohol is strictly prohibited: “Don’t bring it to your room out of respect; it is against our way of living and you would deeply offend us”, I read in the book, hearing Ramesh’s voice in my head. The Prince Polonia Hotel in Delhi is run by devout Hindus; however the atmosphere there feels calm, not constrained in any way.
My volunteer work with with women at Stitches of Tibet, funded by the Tibetan Women’s Association in Dharamsala, is demanding, but so rewarding. Each weekday morning for 90 minutes, we meet in a small classroom above the workshop where the women are learning the craft of making chubas, traditional Tibetan dresses. We do a combination of Empowerment Coaching & English practice.
I’m amazed at the complex concepts that I’m able to get across to these highly motivated, eager women, with the help of Tibetan translation by group members & my friend Dolma, who hopes to be a Tibetan-English translator one day. It’s a joy to work with the women, & to see them grow in confidence each day.
We are halfway through our time together, & have 7 days left. I know I’ll miss them & our time together when I leave Dharamsla.
We are pleased to announce that Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End and Yours Begin is now available on Amazon Kindle
For this week only, you can purchase the book for only 99 cents. If you find it helpful, please let others know about it by writing a review and telling friends and family.
Below is an excerpt from Surviving Eldercare. You can also watch the video on Amazon’s Ellen Besso Page (bottom right side of the page)
Who Are You?
Women are caregivers
• Do you worry your parent might be lonely or unsafe when you’re not with them?
• Do you feel there must be more that you could be doing?
• Are you tired, stressed, resentful, guilty or physically unwell?
• Do you get frustrated and angry with other family members?
• Do you feel sad, powerless or fearful about your parent’s declining condition?
If any of the above issues resonate with you, you have joined the growing ranks of midlife caregivers. The MidLife Caregiver could be any woman… she’s the next door neighbor, the person in the next office, the woman in the grocery store, or maybe she’s us. We often don’t know the stories of other women’s lives until we stop and talk with them, then we find we share many similarities. I am a life coach, a counselor and a mother and I am one of you. My brother Johnny and I have been responsible for our mother’s well-being for the past ten years, ever since she asked us for help and opted to move to our community from Vancouver Island. During the first five years Johnny’s role was that of self-appointed case manager, looking after many details of our mother’s life, including hiring and supervising in-home care. His stress level increased over time as mom’s Alzheimer’s worsened, she became less safe and her needs more urgent. Sometimes there were phone calls to him late in the night.
Being a caregiver to my parent, who is frail physically and has severe dementia, is a much bigger responsibility than I expected it would be. For the past five years I’ve been the ‘point woman’ who oversees mom’s care. I’ve provided hands-on care including personal hygiene, taken mom on weekly outings and to appointments, hosted occasional overnight visits, bought all her clothes and toiletries and paid her bills. Additionally, I’ve given her consistent emotional support and connection to a world that slowly, year by year, slips from her grasp.
Most adult women are already caregivers of some kind or other – for kids, family, friends or coworkers. Some of us have professional careers in caregiving also (such as nurses, care aides, counselors, teachers, doctors). Although gender roles are somewhat more flexible now, when it comes to caregiving our roles and responsibilities as women are very often still assumed. We don’t feel we have much choice.
By midlife many of us are confronted with an additional caregiving responsibility – one that we may not have anticipated or given a lot of thought to previously. Only thirty-five to forty percent of women interviewed had considered and discussed the possibility of being a caregiver to their parent, according to a Journal of Women & Aging study done by Laditka & Pappas-Rogich.
The challenge of aging parents coincides with perimenopause, menopause and the beginning of new projects and transitions. We may still have adolescent or young adult children at home, or we’re grandparents by now. The ‘sandwich generation’ label that describes women squished between younger and older family members fits many of us.
The US Department of Health Womens’ Services reports that female caregivers make up seventy-three percent of all caregivers. Our average age is around forty-six (I was forty-nine when I began caregiving for my mom). Caregiving seems to be ‘women’s work’ in a way that housework was in previous generations.
Men are socialized to assume fewer caring responsiblities throughout their life than women. Additionally some research suggests that males have a different view of caregiving than women in a couple of ways. The male approach emphasizes delegating responsibility and also recognizes that there are limitations to what one can accomplish. It seems a healthy philosophy to me, and perhaps women could benefit from these ideas.
Unpaid caregiving can take many forms
A daughter who shops for her aging parent, one who lives in another province or state and hires a private local care manager, a son who manages his parent’s finances, a daughter-in-law who visits her parent in their care home and takes her on outings, or an adult child who lives with their parent all constitute caregivers. Long distance caregiving, sometimes called ‘the geographic crunch’ or ‘suitcase caregiving’, is a worrisome job, and it is becoming more common as baby boomers and their parents age and live farther apart.
For two periods of time during the past ten years I’ve lived a forty-minute ferry ride plus a short drive from my mother. We were on opposite sides of the inlet between North Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, waiting for a bed to become available for her in a care home during each of these periods. It took the better part of a day to visit her and take her on an outing.
As she deteriorated, I felt badly about leaving her at the door of her apartment, and later saying goodbye to her at her care home, although to a lesser extent. Even though my mother had others nearby, I was unsettled and worried about what might happen when I wasn’t there, and about not being able to get to her if she had an accident or heart attack in the night when the ferries weren’t running.
Women’s rights have come a long way, and we’re now in the 3rd wave of feminism, after the first 2 waves failed to adequately address the real issues of women of colour, poor women and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women.
While Western women have made many gains, the lot of women in developing countries has improved only in tiny increments. Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan are the world’s most dangerous countries for women, due to threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal health care and honour killings, a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll showed last year.
Please check out this fascinating & uplifting post by 11 women around the world , posted by The Saudi Woman’s Website, a one-woman unique account of politics in Saudi as they pertain to women’s rights.
After you click the link below, Press on “Click here” and you will be transferred to a map showing the locations of the 11 women who have written about their country for International Women’s Day and their stories.
Here is a link to a poem honouring women’ strength, The Empowered Woman, by Sonny Carroll.