8 symptoms in old age that warrant attention


8 symptoms in old age that warrant attention
October 1 is International Day of Older persons.

Often old age comes with problems, and mostly health related. Many a times, we miss out on things that are obvious. Especially after those youthful days when one had the attitude of ‘come what may’. Here are some old age signs you should not miss out on, and seek immediate medical attention for.

Low mood 

Due to the many health problems at their age and the on and off aches and pains they experience, we expect a grumpy mood in most elders to be normal. However, that isn’t how it should be. If you notice your otherwise cheerful parent, elderly relative or neighbour appearing sullen, it’s worth probing further and also seeking medical advice if things remain unchanged for long. Elders could feel low or depressed due to loneliness, feeling of worthlessness or troubled relationships at home. Often these aspects are overlooked by them and their family as well. (Read: Ten sure-shot ways to age healthy)

Memory loss

We all forget things occasionally but this is one of the most common and challenging problems of the geriatric population world over. If the person forgets names of people who s/he regularly interacts with or memory of very recent events then it could be concerning. Forgetting things like where did they place something or why did they enter the room is normal. But if they lose the trail of a sentence during their speech or forget words it could be a sign of dementia.

Lack of care 

A sudden drop in the way your ageing parents dress or take care of the home should call for your attention. If you notice a lack of interest in bathing, brushing, dressing neatly then the reason should be probed. Also, if your parents have been living by themselves, keep checking on the condition of the house, especially the bathroom and the kitchen. The reason for this decline could be that they have lost confidence to manage on their own and it’s time they moved in with you or arrange for an outside support to help them with their daily chores. (Read: 56% elderly abused by their sons)

Loss of sensation

If your elderly parent is unable to taste excess salt in the food, or has hurt himself and isn’t feeling any pain it calls for serious attention. Some amount of sensory loss is normal and expected as you age but if this becomes a hindrance then it should be fixed. For instance, loss of hearing has to be fixed with a hearing aid even if it is only a partial loss. Loss of sensation of touch should be diagnosed by an expert and treated. If not it could lead to accidents as the person may use too hot water in the bath or touch a hot utensil in the kitchen causing a burn and not even be aware of it.

Loss of appetite 

Again just like children are fussy about the foods they eat, elderly become picky about foods and their appetite changes and reduces from what it used to be. If this is due to dental problems such as caries or absence of teeth, it could be fixed and normal appetite can be restored. However if the loss of appetite is due to indigestion, inability to procure or cook foods of their liking or a general loss of interest due to loneliness or depression, these concerns need to be addressed separately. They may also have a lack of taste which may make all foods taste bland. 


One of the biggest challenges in the elderly is to prevent a fall. Like children, the elderly are very prone to falls and with weak bones they are at higher risk of fractures and head injuries. If balance is not good, physiotherapy exercises can help to restore balance. Home environment plays an important role in fall prevention.

Loss of control in urine and stool

Loss of control over urine is a common problem with the elderly. In men it can be due to prostate, and in women it can be due to stress incontinence. It can happen as a result of an illness like pneumonia as well. A quick discussion, during the doctor’s visit, on this is very important to prevent emergencies like acute retention of urine. Due to embarrassment your parents may not disclose this complaint to you, so look for signs such as soiled clothes or bed linen.

Making the home safe for the elderly

Encourage them to wear shoes that fit properly and wear non-slip footwear while at home
Wipe spills immediately, do not leave it for later
If possible, opt for non-polished floors
Leave on the lights in the bathroom and passages
Use door locks that can be opened from both sides in bathrooms and bedrooms
Keep emergency phone numbers written in big bold fonts, and stick it near the phone
Keep a fire extinguisher handy at home
Clean bathrooms regularly to avoid slipping
Install and use hand rails in bathrooms
Remove rugs to avoid tripping over
Use bright lights
Keep an emergency lamp near the bed.
In the kitchen
Keep kitchen floors uncluttered
Stick ‘On’ and ‘Off’ position stickers on electrical appliances written in bright colours
Keep sharp objects in one rack
Use labels for items that are kept in opaque boxes
Keep cleaning materials tightly closed and away from food materials
Use cotton clothing and aprons while cooking
Check expiry dates of packaged food.
There’s a lot you can do for the elders of your family and community to make them feel comfortable, wanted and secure. But the best thing you can give them is some of your time, spent meaningfully with them. (Read: International Day of Older Persons: Living old age with dignity)



Tale of two Democracies

  True Democracy in Action

                                                   JOGISHWAR SINGH

As a Swiss citizen born in India, I am many times brought to think about my 
experiences of the democratic systems prevalent in the two countries.

Before Indian ‘patriots’ start screaming murder at what I am going to say, I 

should point out that I am fully aware that I am talking about two different 
historical realities.

Switzerland has been independent for over 800 years while India is a newly 

created entity, now a mere 66 years old.

Switzerland has a population of only 8 million while India has the second 

highest population of any country in the world at over 1.2 billion (give or 
take a few million). And expected, in the near future, to even outstrip 
China, and become the world’s most populous. 

The trigger for this set of reflections was what I saw on the 7.30 pm eve. 
news on Swiss TV a couple of weeks ago.

The Swiss President, Mr Ueli Maurer,  was leaving on a five day state visit to 

China. The news showed him arriving  at Zürich airport in an ordinary private 
vehicle. The President got out of the  car by opening the car door himself. 
He walked to the nearby baggage trolley stand outside the airport entrance. 
He took a baggage trolley out, rolled it  towards the car, lifted his suitcase and 
travel bag himself, put these on the trolley which he then rolled towards the 
entrance like any passenger lambda like you or me. He walked up to the check 
in counter with just two other persons  walking behind him. He checked his 
luggage in for a commercial flight without  any special treatment being meted 
out to him.

For any Indians (or others) who might  find it difficult to believe what I have 
described above, you can CLICK on  the link provided hereunder, at the 
end of this article, to view a TV news  clip from the evening prime time 
news for July 16, 2013..

This clip is really worth watching.

Conditioned by my personal experiences of dealing with politicians and 

government ministers in India while serving as an IAS (Indian Administrative
Service) officer, I was so struck by the contrast between what I had experienced
in India and what I was seeing on the TV screen that I told my wife that this
represented one of the finest examples of democracy for me, certainly of the
Swiss variety. It made me proud to be the citizen of a country where the serving
President behaves like an ordinary citizen and does not feel the need to consider
special privileged treatment as his divine birthright. 

I remembered the countless times when I had seen the fury of Indian politicians, 

much below the level of the President of a country, at what they considered as
a slight because they had not been treated as demi-gods.

I am not a psychologist. I do not know whether centuries of slavery have 

generated this distorted VIP culture in India but I remember that we all did curse
the politicians there for causing so much inconvenience to the general public
by expecting, demanding and getting privileged treatment. 

Who in India, except maybe some politicians or bureaucrats, has not been 

inconvenienced by VIP visits for which miles of roads and highways, even entire neighbourhoods, are blocked off to traffic, and flights are delayed, awaiting the 
arrival of some VIP or even his/her flunkies/family members? 

Any such inconvenience would cause an uproar in Switzerland

In India, it does not generate even a whimper.

In this context, an incident from the not very distant past strongly lingers in my 

memory. A few years ago, a former IAS batch-mate of mine (1976 batch) had
visited Switzerland. 

I have noticed that Switzerland becomes a prize destination of choice for a lot 

of Indian ministers and bureaucrats during their hot summer for attending all
kinds of useless conferences which are essentially talking shops organised
by the United Nations, an organisation which is a hotbed of nepotism and

This IAS officer wanted to see Switzerland, so I acted as his local tourist 


While we were going around the Swiss federal capital, Bern, it was lunch 

time so we decided to have lunch at a restaurant very close to the Swiss
parliament building. 

As we took our seats at a table, a Swiss gentleman sitting at the next table, 

reading his newspaper while sipping his coffee, greeted us in English.
While we ordered our meal and waited, he finished reading his newspaper,
drank his coffee and called for his bill which he paid before leaving. While
going out, he again politely wished us goodbye, even saying, “I hope you
enjoy your stay in Switzerland” in English.

After he had left, I asked my visitor if he knew who the man had been. 

Obviously, my visitor did not know the answer. I informed him that we had 
just been greeted by the then serving Swiss President, Mr René Felber. 

My guest thought I was making fun of him. He would not believe me so I 
called the restaurant manager to confirm the veracity of what I had told him.
The manager duly confirmed what I had said. 

My Indian visitor was flabbergasted. He said, “How can this be possible? 

He actually paid his bill before leaving”. 

So, what struck my visitor the most had been the fact that a VIP had 

actually paid his bill! I wonder what he would say if he saw our current
President, Mr Ueli Maurer, personally loading his bags on to a baggage
trolley and wheeling it to a check-in counter just like any ordinary citizen.
His disbelief could only be countered by visual evidence on the TV!

My visitor’s reaction brought back memories of when, as a serving sub-

divisional or district level official, I had been called upon to organise lunches
and dinners for numerous collections of freeloaders travelling with ministers
or bureaucrats in India. 

I seldom remember any politician or bureaucrat actually paying or even 

offering to pay for the bonanza laid out for them. Those who did offer to pay, 
did so at the ridiculously low official daily fare of eleven rupees (today, a
mere 20 cents US) per person or something like that. 

Nobody ever asked how it had been possible to lay out a lavish meal 

comprising several dishes, accompanied by expensive alcoholic beverages,
for such a petty sum. I never found out myself who used to pay for all this
extravaganza at the end of the line. 

Like a good Indian bureaucrat, I just used to pass the buck down the line to 

my junior magistrates and revenue officials. To this day, I am unable to clarify
which poor victim — read, citizen! — who got stuck with paying for all the
freebies on offer.

While working as chief of staff to the President of the Swiss Commission for 

the Presence of Switzerland in Foreign Countries many years ago, I had the
chance of accompanying him to Strasbourg for meetings of the Council of
Europe. I also had the privilege of close interaction with several Swiss
members of parliament over an extended period of 12 to 14 months. 

The contrast to the behavioural pattern of what I had experienced in India 

with politicians was so stark that it has stayed seared in my mind even 
till today. 

I am by no means suggesting that Swiss politicians are angels, but the 

kind of behaviour that Indian politicians or bureaucrats get away with as
a matter of routine in India would torpedo their careers in Switzerland
in a jiffy.

Each such incident deepens my gratitude to Waheguru Almighty for having 

made me settle down in a country like Switzerland where the President
carries his own bags to the check-in counter. 

Where no roads are blocked for hours so that some VIP can, in the name 

of security, be whisked around in convoys of official vehicles. 

Where politicians and bureaucrats pay their bills in restaurants. 

Where grossly sycophantic behaviour is not the general and accepted 


Where no red-light beacons or screaming sirens signal the passage of 

VIP vehicles. Indeed, the red-light-beacon culture of officialdom in India
merits a full story in itself.

I might accept India as a true democracy the day I see its President or 

Prime Minister behaving like the Swiss President before his departure
on an official visit abroad.

I don’t think I will ever see such a sight in India during my lifetime. 

You think, maybe, my grandchildren will?

To view the TV news-clip, please CLICK here.
August 15, 2013