This article is focused on old-age parents who migrated from Kerala as dependents of their adult children. Over the past few decades, especially in the fiscal year 2018, India was the fourth largest country of origin for new permanent residents. Nearly 60,000 of the 1.1 million new permanent residents were from India. Most Indians who obtain Green Cards, bring their immediate family members through family reunification channels (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019).
More than 50% of parents of immigrants from Kerala end up in the U.S permanently. A family reunion is exciting at the beginning. Parents wind up in isolation, emptiness, and tediousness, specifically, if they are widowers or widows. Can their adult children be blamed when they are on the run to meet ends and expand their children’s future? What are some ways to ensure their comfort and happiness?
Starting with a real-life story, 86-year-old Mr. Joseph, a widower, migrated from Kerala barely 2 years ago after being filed by his son. Hardworking Joseph was enjoying his retired life in Kerala at his vegetable farm and paddy field with lots of farming projects. He had a pretty tight bond with his neighbors and relatives, especially, his brother who is just 2 years younger to him. Since his migration, he was not able to connect with his loved ones. His son helped him call his brother, occasionally. But, Joseph missed his home and wanted to talk to his brother every day. However, Joseph did not want to bother his busy son. Nonetheless, his son did not consider that it was important for his dad to access the phone any time to call his loved ones in hometown. Unfortunately, Joseph got hospitalized due to a major heart attack and passed away the next day. What could Joseph’s son have done better before his dad passed away? Probably, he could have made arrangements for dad to make phone calls, especially to his brother. Joseph could have been happier, if he had a chance to call his brother before his death.
As a workforce and young parents, sometimes, we fail to pay much attention to our older parents, unknowingly. Is our parents’ mental health important to us? Are they happy in the last few years of their lives? Is there any solution to make them engaged physically and mentally? As the daughter of a 70-year-old dad, I have been brainstorming for a while just to find out some course of action that can support him. I found that even seemingly insignificant things and activities can make him really happy.
How about going for a walk with our parents when possible? This is a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with your parents and discover if they are happy. Ask about their childhood, their grandparents, their living status, and their food habits 50 years ago. You will find out a lot of interesting facts about them that will surprise you! For instance, my dad had ice cream for the first time, when he was 14! Eating chicken once a week was fancy and something hard to afford! His dad was the first person who passed matriculation in the village. And I figured out what matriculation is just because of this conversation. Even a small personal and private conversation can bring their good memories back and make them feel that someone is there to listen to them.
Let them be independent and let’s make them feel free in our surroundings. In Indian culture, elders are aided with most of the basic tasks. But, do they need our help with simple things such as serving water and food in their hands, washing their plates etc., even if they are willing to do it by themselves? Maybe not, unless they are unable to do so. Let them be used to your house and the surroundings, let them feel like your house is their house, let them feel young, energetic, and independent. Compared to similar age groups in America, why are Americans much more active than our old-age parents? In our culture, it is expected that older parents must be reserved with prayer and households. Let our parents come out of this trend and spread their wings to fly higher.
How about cooking their favorite dishes together sometimes? Yeh, let them aid us. This will make them feel helpful and valuable. Let us learn their authentic recipes and touch-ups to make their favorite dish. Do not forget to ask them, if they want anything special, when you are out shopping.
Playing cards or any other simple game is a clever idea for them to be engaged with their kids. My dad is an extremely reserved person. My kids and I play cards with him on weekends, and I see this is the only time my dad laughs loudly and talks happily! This also helps my kids bond with their grandpa and the family. The quality time we spend with them will be our cherished moments eventually.
Who wouldn’t love a massage? Joint pains are quite common in older parents as a part of the aging process. Maybe, it’s a bit expensive, but go out with them once a month or more often to offer them a massage. Whenever I take my dad for a massage, I get one too!
Family prayer should not only be an occasion to bond with God, but also with our parents. Let them lead a personal prayer that opens their mind to God by which we can understand their wishes and priorities. Give praise to God by hugging each other after the prayer. Let our kids hug and kiss them and ask for their blessing every day. This is an amazing way to hold the family chain together sturdy and blessed.
Let us go to church with them on Sundays! This is something that they adore and value greatly. Going to church is an important regimen for them and us even after being re-rooted to America. This is a large platform for them to be introduced among other parents of their age group and to make some friends. Let them exchange phone numbers with their friends who have similar views. Let us help them celebrate their milestones, such as, birthdays and anniversaries. Remembering their birthdays and other events will make them feel loved and appreciated. If possible, we can give them a surprise party and invite their friends, or take them out for dinner.
In conclusion, doing something that makes them happy and appreciated is the way to show our love and gratitude to our parents. They deserve the same treatment that we give to our children because the reason for success and the way we are now is their arduous work. Take a moment to think, if we want our kids to treat us the way we treat our parents?
The below video is a good message in terms of caring for our parents: