On Saturday, January 2, 2021, Seniors Today hosted Dr Monika M Dass, a leading psychologist, to conduct the second Counselling Forum for Senior Citizens as part of the Health Live series. Dr Noor Gill captures the key takeaways from the session.
On Saturday, January 2, Health Live @ Seniors Today hosted its second month Seniors Today Counselling Forum with leading psychologist Dr Monika M Dass.
Dr Dass is a Chartered Psychologist, a Chartered Scientist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, UK. Professionally, she has counselled over 12,500 individuals in a span of 20 years and has published several papers in both Indian and international journals.
A trained pianist and vocalist from the Trinity College of Music, London, Dr Dass has influenced many lives with the joyful learning of music. She has been actively involved in several popular musicals such as The Sound of Music, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and so on… with her expertise in developing children through drama. She firmly believes that any extracurricular activity can help tap into one’s potential and bring out the best in an individual.
In the past, we have covered a whole lot of areas such as assisted living, living with the family, dealing with family members, taking care of oneself, taking a hold of one’s finances. But one area that Dr Dass feels has not been covered yet or can be looked at is “dealing with relationships”. Because if you have a successful relationship, which could be with your spouse or your children, you could really go a long way. Life becomes healthier, wealthier and much happier in the long run. We can also discuss living a better life, mentally, emotionally and otherwise- to combine everything and bring it together.
Q: My wife and I stay with our son. We sold our house for him so he can buy a new house in Navi Mumbai but his behaviour towards us has changed. We have given him everything he asked for, in terms of money and now we feel like we’re stuck. Please help.
A: This business of handing over all your wealth, your home, money, etc. needs to be taken into cognisance.
- Please don’t hand over your money to anybody and everybody that easily
- As long as your mental faculties are working and as long as you are physically capable of living a normal and good life, you need to be handling your own finances.
In situations like these, this change is behaviour is seen worldwide. Because then they become in control of you, instead of vice versa – you being in control of yourself and your situation and surroundings. You suddenly have someone dictating the terms to you and it is all because of money. Money makes the world go round and that is the case with homes also. So please don’t hand your money, property, finances for as long as you feel you can take control of them. You can be well into your 80s and then decide.
You will need a good lawyer to help you out of this situation or a good family friend who can talk to your son and tell him about your side of the story and his responsibility towards his parents without dictating the terms and making your life miserable.
Q: I have been living with my daughter and her husband. My daughter insists that I stay with them but my son-in-law disagrees. I can sense a lot of tension in their relationship as they are planning of having a child. I have financial concerns otherwise I would have opted to live in a seniors living community.
A: It’s a Catch-22. You’ve got financial issues, you’re dependant on your daughter. Ideally you shouldn’t be staying with them, not because you’re not wanted but just in terms of family dynamics.
Many sons-in-law have a problem with their wives parents living with them. They don’t mind this happening on occasion, for a couple of days but Indian men, sorry to say this, are very self-centred. For them, their families, their mother-father have a priority over the woman’s. This mindset still exists even though we’re now in 2021.
Practically speaking, you can have your daughter and son-in-law help you move into a place where you’re comfortable, in an assisted living home, etc. they could split the expenses with you. This could help you become more independent and will be better for them as well, with a baby coming along the way.
But they will need you when the baby arrives. They will need you to help out.
Q: My husband has been diagnosed dementia. His behavior has been very different and he hits me without any reason. I’ve lost faith in his recovery. Do senor citizen homes take care of such situations?
A: Yes, ma’am. You need to move him. You might want to look into Epoch Elder Care, they have branches in Gurugram and Pune. They look at assisted care and patients with dementia. Their contact details are 098099681595
You should consider moving him, since it is very difficult to be in an abusive (physically, mentally and emotionally) relationship. You don’t want to be beaten black and blue every day. Move him out and visit him 2-3 times a week so he knows that you’re still there.
Q: My son and his wife live with us in my home. My daughter- in-law is instigating my wife against me and we’ve been fighting almost every day. My wife just won’t understand what our daughter-in-law is up to. I am a very loving parent and I don’t understand what is causing this change in her (daughter-in-law) behavior, kindly help.
A: Sit your daughter-in-law and your son down and talk to them. Have a family conversation. Talk about what is occurring and how it is upsetting you. Try and figure out the rest during the conversation. If she’s trying to instigate your wife against you, you need to understand why she’s doing it. Is she doing it to upset you, is she trying to destabilise the whole family, is she trying to take over?
You need to have a proper, frank conversation. It does not have to be an argument, sit down and try and figure it out. Talk to your son as well. He needs to take control as a part of the family. He is also a part of the family so where is he in all of this. As you said, you’re a loving parent, he needs to be a part of it. And then maybe he can speak to his wife.
Q: I live alone, my wife passed away in March’2020 . My son is in Kuwait and is working in an oil and gas company. He’s living in the company quarters, he sends me money and calls me every day, but I still feel neglected. What can I do?
A: You need to take yourself and push yourself forward. You need to be proactive. Nothing will come and fall in your lap. You are living a comfortable life, your son is sending you enough to live comfortably. So you need to keep your mind occupied and emotionally busy. Try and find a group of elders and get involved with them. Find a group activity that keeps you busy for a couple of hours a day.
We all have a routine, exercising, eating, working, and in between these things we need to socialize, do some kind of community work. Help some youngster out with some special skills or gifts that you might have. It is very rewarding in itself. Depending on what you’ve specialised in, it does not have to be about earning money but about giving somebody something that you have- that can be your advice on something you are an expert in.
You need to get busy, doing something constructive and doing something that keeps you busy.
Q: I am 61 years’ old, my wife died 23 years back while she gave birth to my son. I took care of him all these years. I do all the household works and have been performing my duties as a single parent. My son somehow does not respect me. Whenever I speak to him, he gets up and goes away. I always try to speak to him nicely, but somehow it’s not working. I just want him to speak to me. Can you guide me on this?
A: Under ordinary circumstances, you have a mother-father duo bringing up children. In this case, having lost your wife and you having to take on the role of both the mother and the father, has also not been easy on your son. I don’t know if you realise, but both a man and woman have a role to play in this whole business of bringing up children. I am sure you meant well, while you were trying to manage things.
If you have your mother, your wife’s mother, a sister or a family member, make them talk to him. Make them get through to him, he is an angry young man and in his own way, he feels as though he is missing out on somethings.
A lot of the times, they act this way because they are angry about something. For all you know, he could be blaming himself for his mother’s death. There are a lot of emotional issues that come up when dealing with a parent’s death. I don’t know if you have ever had a conversation with him about this subject. If ever by mistake, you’ve ever blamed him for the death of your wife, even if it was by mistake, or in a raised voice during an argument that you had, it can settle down and sink in the individual and stay forever.
There is a lot you need to work out, and you will need help from other members of your family to guide you and to soften the edges around this young man.
Q: My wife behaves in a manner I cannot understand. She complains of having difficulty in work, say taking the washed clothes out and when the maid offers to help, she refuses. She seems to always project like she is suffering. I am 70 and my wife is 68. We live with my son and daughter-in-law.
A: There are people who are born sufferers, complainers. Who feel like they carry the burden of the world on their shoulders and the world can’t do without them, so we’ve got all types of people in our life.
Firstly, your wife needs to understand that she cannot do everything.
Secondly, if the complaining bit or the self-sufferance that has been going on from her side is occurring too often you need to give yourself some space so you don’t get irritated by it. You also need to ask her to stop complaining. Have a frank conversation with her about the things that she can manage and the things that she cannot, and then come up with a solution for all the things she can’t do by herself. As long as you have help in the house, your wife needs to take advantage of that.
Q: I’m a practising dental implantologist, love to work and help people. We have two children in the US and one is here with us. Family dynamics make me stay in the US for at least 2-3 months, I miss working. How can I balance?
A: If family gatherings are taking you to US, and you’re enjoying those gatherings, which are also just as important a part of your life.
You can either lessen that period or come back in between. But you will have to mentally adjust. You will have to figure this one out and find out what sits well with you.
Ask yourself questions like- why do you have to go for 2 months? Do you have to be there for 2 months?
The world is small today, you don’t necessarily have to stay for 2-3 months, you can make shirt 3-4 week trips and if you are financially comfortable, you can make 2-3 trips a year rather than just staying for a long period of time.
Your work is important, it is your life and soul, but so is your family.
Q: How to overcome unknown fear and handle the situation?
A: You will and you should meet with a psychologist, a clinical psychologist or even a counsellor. Not because there is something wrong with you mentally or emotionally but they will help you trace back certain events or circumstances that perhaps set you up into the situation, without you realizing.
Fear does not stem from nothing, fear stems from an experience or a situation or even a story that you might have heard.
Q: In today’s day and age should parents live with their children?
A: It depends on how old you are and it also depends on how mentally and physically fit you are. I feel that elderly couples should be independent for as long as they can. Handle your own lives, your own homes, your own finances, etc. plus you have the space, the ability to make your own decisions without them being dictated to you.
As we grow older, we think that our children will take care of us, say X years down the line, but remember, that when you were young you were busy also. And you probably did not have as much time for your parents as they were growing older. It’s the same case with all of us. This is what life is about, it is about brining children into the world, making them independent, having happy families as much as one can have, helping then stand on their two feet and letting them go forward without you being dependent on them for as long as you can. Because they need that freedom, they need that time to move on, and if you’re there, many feel obliged, happily obliged to look after you; but then the irritation, the arguments, all the negativity is bound to arise. So instead be independent for as long as you can. If you’re financially stable live your life and let them visit you as often as they can for as long as they can.
Q: How to minimize quarrels amongst us when we are tighter 24×7?
A: This Covid of 2020 seems to have put families together, but more so spouses toghter longer than usual. We’re all used to our own space and you still need to find that.
Pardon me for saying this, but, a lot of men who have retired and have led busy lives at work, suddenly have nothing else to do and the pandemic has brought on them looking into things and poking their noses here and there whereas their wives have managed capably for the last 30-40 years. Remember that they are also coming from a situation where they kept themselves busy for odd 40-50 years of their lives.
This is why finding something constructive to do is very important, both for a man and a woman, but more for a man because ladies still have a house to run and other things to see to. Whereas a man does not particularly want to run a home 24×7. But when the forces put you together, you have to find space and very clearly say so.
Q: I am 65 years of age and I’m getting up in the night at 2 or 3 AM and am not able to sleep most of the time. Sometimes I tale a sleeping pill
A: As we age, our sleeping patterns differ, it reduces. But if you’re getting up a bit too often, then you need to figure out if there are issues, mentally, that are causing it. Because usually our sleep patterns are altered by the thoughts that arise in our minds.
See if you’re eating too late. You will have to change your eating tome, if you are
Are you exercising too late in the evening?
Towards the evening, you need to eat ealire, lessen your exercise and see if it is the thoughts that are pervading.
Q: My father is extremely insecure, financially and hallucinates. The problem is, he keeps calling our office staff and lawyers without any knowledge of the subject, keeps giving advice. He is 84 years old and has multiple medical issues.
A: He will need help for the hallucinations and you need to take care of that. In terms of giving instructions to lawyers, CAs, he has the right to do that if it is all his money. But what you need to be looking at is, why does he not take you into count? Why does he not confide in you? This is something you need to discuss with your father and have a conversation with your lawyers as well, with your father in presence, of course so they also know where you’re coming from.
Q: I’m 70, wife is 68, I feel sexually interested, but the wife is not sexually interested, what should I do?
A: The libido of men and women differ, particularly as you grow older, men continue to be sexually active more so than women are. Whether you’re into mediation or spirituality, all those things lower the urge to sex in many ways. Both of you need to have a chat about this, figure out a way how she can help you, if you need her. And for you to realise that you shouldn’t impinge if she doesn’t want you. Not in the sense that she doesn’t want you around but just not want you physically around her.
A good, friendly chat between you and your wife is the medicine. And if that still doesn’t help, see an expert.