Older caregivers

Older caregivers - Tribuna Abierta

Active ageing is presented as the set of attitudes and activities necessary to make the stage of life known as old age, old age, or senior citizenship, a rewarding experience for oneself and others. 

To this end, the aim is to create habits to keep oneself in top physical and intellectual shape in order to avoid dependence or at least to delay it as much as possible in time.

Along these lines, older people become consumers and users of leisure, culture and tourism, generating resources and business in the so-called silver economy.

Faced with this reality, there is another defined by vulnerability which, to a greater or lesser extent, will affect us all at one time or another. There is a strong phrase on the ossuary of Santa María de Wamba: "as you see me I saw you and as you see me you will see me", reminding us of fragility as an inherent condition of human nature.

It is worth bearing in mind these complicated situations not only because they may affect us directly or indirectly to a greater or lesser extent, but also as a sign of understanding for those who are currently immersed in them.

In the previous article we explained the legal regime of the de facto guardian in Law 8/2021 of 2 June, a figure of support exercised by a family member or relative who usually lives with the dependent elderly person, attending to their basic personal needs such as food, hygiene, health, etc., at the same time as managing their financial affairs.

In this case, we are considering the case in which an elderly person takes care of a vulnerable family member, usually a spouse, a disabled child or grandchildren.

Dependence on the person with whom we have shared a lifetime because of a degenerative disease can occur gradually, making it easier to become aware of the new circumstances, or suddenly in all its intensity, which will make it more difficult to cope with them.

In both cases, it means facing the unknown, often alone, with the consequent stress and anguish aggravated by the pain of contemplating the decline of a loved one.

It may be necessary to resort to personalised professional care in a geriatric centre, with the aim of providing the greatest possible well-being for the affected person and a more bearable situation for the caregiver who, on many occasions, is often admitted or comes daily to accompany the loved one. In any case, it is an abrupt change in the way of life for which no one is prepared.

Parents of children with disabilities have taken on the role of caregivers since the onset and diagnosis of their cause, in many cases at birth or in childhood, they are veterans in this work having overcome stages, but the weight of the years leaves its mark.

Advances in medicine allow the resolution of many illnesses inherent to disability that were previously fatal, increasing life expectancy, although premature ageing in many cases is inevitable, coinciding with the ageing of the parents.

There are many entities that offer joint residence services for people with disabilities and their elderly parents in need of support for the care of their children and their own care. 

The legal regime in this case is usually the extinct extended or rehabilitated parental authority, contemplated in Law 13/1983 of 24 October, and repealed by the last reform already mentioned, Law 8/2021 of 2 June. The Second Transitory Provision maintains both figures in force until the mandatory review of the disability and the adoption of the appropriate support measure, assistance guardianship or representative guardianship.

The care of grandchildren is another typical case of the issue at hand. Grandparents assume this essential function in many families by taking care of the grandchildren, due to work, professional or personal requirements of the children.

Sometimes it consists of periodic or occasional help, such as picking up the grandchildren from school, occasional care due to commitments of any kind or illness of the child or parents.

It is not unusual for grandparents to be the ideal solution for the care of grandchildren in the event of family breakdown. In this situation of risk and neglect in which the child cannot be adequately cared for by his or her parents, the most suitable solution is his or her integration in a family environment, avoiding institutionalisation.

Hence, the candidates for the guardianship of the minor are proposed to members of the extended family, among which the first are the grandparents who, in many cases, take charge of the care of their grandchildren at risk of abandonment on their own initiative. 

In reality, most of the proceedings initiated by the public entity are aimed at legalising a consolidated de facto situation, such as the incorporation of the minor into the family environment of his or her grandparents.

In all these cases, the elderly carers of a vulnerable relative often go unnoticed, ignoring the very important and transcendental work they carry out for society, which results in a significant saving of resources for the public administration.

It is essential to avoid loneliness, sharing experiences and concerns with other people in the same situation, serving as support for those who are starting out on the path. 

To this end, new technologies are an instrument of communication; whatsapp groups are an easy and quick means of contact and exchange of advice and recommendations, some of which are already in full operation with the participation of professionals and those affected. Self-care for the caregiver is an essential measure, so that physical and mental health is not affected by continuous overexertion.

Let this brief article serve as an acknowledgement to those elderly people who give up their well-deserved peace of mind after a lifetime of work to care for their families, offering them all our support and understanding.