Old Cuba, but neat

By: Antonio López Sánchez

The issue of population aging in Cuba is well known and discussed. In sociological terms, there are an important number of factors that influence this aging to occur. There is a high life expectancy and a low birth rate. There is a young workforce that is migrating. In a few years a high percent of the population will depend on the work of another percent.

In everyday and more earthly terms, there are many limitations and problems that still persist and that directly affect not only the elderly age group, but also those around them. Because an old man in today’s Cuba, and whatever the degree of independence and the capacities that he possesses for himself, usually needs several people, relatives or close friends, to be able to carry out his life.

The daily life of this country, which happens under the sum of hostilities, external blockades and internal errors (all of which lead to multiple shortages); of some very necessary and others very absurd rudder movements to try the economic accommodation; But now the terrible scourge of the pandemic that the planet suffers, is very hard for anyone. Let’s think then how difficult it can be for the elderly. To the limitations of age, mobility, and diseases, we must now add others, as a result of the inevitable measures to be taken by the epidemic.

Some families have been separated, for long months, as a result of the isolation that dictates avoiding contagion and travel restrictions. Grandchildren, children, siblings or friends have now become phone calls, mobile phone calls and longing for the future. Some elderly people have had to emigrate to the homes of their relatives and leave their habits and customs (which is known to be dislocating and greatly affects older people), since they could not assume the limitations and prohibitions as a result of the pandemic alone. Needless to say, despite your many annoyances and even mistakes, I don’t think anyone in their right mind disapproves of what you do to prevent more sickness and more deaths. In fact, not a few are calling for more drastic measures. Even though we all have some dark anecdote to tell about the functioning of the institutions in the pandemic (health institutions included), in general the government response has been coherent and adequate, despite the thousand economic and other mental constraints that we suffer. and they overwhelm us and make daily life difficult. The feat of having multiple vaccine candidates and of assuming the immunization of the Cuban population by its own means, is worthy of positive underlining. We all await the long-awaited vaccination and the end of this nightmare.
Where everything that has been done has failed is in achieving stable supplies and a regular supply range of the most necessary products. In Havana, which at the time of writing these lines exhibits a high number of infected, the queues and crowds do not diminish, with everything that derives from them. The battered and surviving notebook has once again come out in defense of the most deprived. That amount of products, now more expensive and known to not cover the needs of a month, has once again been the shipwreck table for the most deprived. But the rest of the food and other items have returned to the tough battle of acquiring them at any cost. Whenever we see these groups, who spend hours in the sun, in the middle of the street, in places where there are hardly ever conditions for a long wait, we think of the elderly. For them, whether or not they have some solidarity help from relatives or neighbors, all this is doubly hard. And we also think of those who must, as a matter of life and death, assume such tails for their elders.

These are not noble times for the elderly. Nor are they for those who carry the responsibility of caring for and caring for an elderly person. The State made it easier to obtain licenses and lower the tax for caregivers. However, with the current increases in all prices, the payment of a caregiver is almost unaffordable, if, for example, it is necessary to cover eight or twelve hours of care, to guarantee the working day of the elderly family member. Asylums, except for those that are very renowned or cared for by religious entities, in addition to not reaching their capacities and not everyone agrees, they still generally do not meet a standard that is, if not attractive, at least reassuring for relatives who place a elderly in the care of these institutions. Not to mention that, for the Cuban mentality, taking an elderly person to a nursing home is almost equivalent to abandonment.

Hence it follows that family members themselves must often assume the role of caregivers and take care of their loved ones. You have to learn as you go. You have to endure many times the offenses and rudeness of that same patient for whom many things are sacrificed. Life changes its rhythm, priorities, perspectives and needs. You have to do magic to combine bathroom schedules, the three meals a day (with their corresponding preparations and scrubs), administering medicines, making daily purchases and other duties, with those of maintaining a professional career, working and also assuming a job. space, at least minimal, for privacy and relaxation. It does not help that we live in a country where transportation for a medical appointment, the lack of a medicine or the difficulties to get disposable diapers, wheelchairs, mattresses and beds suitable for a bedridden patient or the simple detergent to wash clothes soiled with urine. or feces (and the patient himself), can become terrible odyssey. All these difficulties require prompt solutions, as the Island ages. And the caretakers, so used, too.

The pandemic now occupies a large number of efforts. When it is finally defeated, because it will undoubtedly be, other equally pressing problems await solutions. The other pandemic, perhaps less visible but also very harmful, of wear and tear and the daily suffering of the elderly and their families, needs attention.

It is necessary to enhance the resources associated with the care of the elderly, both in terms of health and well-being in general. People must be educated on the existence of this aging population, especially service employees, health personnel and all instances that serve the general public. The differentiated care required by the elderly who need such services must be explained. Consideration should be given to the possibility that retirees (a person who has already worked and contributed all his life) receive certain discounts in certain areas (transport, public shows and various much-needed products, for example) as well as shopping and management facilities.

It is the State that has the capacity, and the obligation, to generate such facilities to improve the lives of the elderly and those responsible. It cannot happen that Cuba, where so many are growing old, is not a country suitable for the elderly. Cuba may get old, but it has to stay alive, cared for and well cared for by its own children and grandchildren.

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