The psychology of elders in seeking help

Will you know it when your senior parent needs help? Human emotions may just get in the way…

A few days back, a San Jose based son of a member came to visit me. We have been providing care for his mother for the last few years, and the son was visiting Kolkata for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic.

He was all praise for our service. (on an aside, I love these conversations 😊, but we do get unhappy customers at times. Eldercare is based on people, and all of us make mistakes. We are all very proactive to understand the issues and then find solutions.) – and the word that he used many times during the visit was ‘peace of mind’. I kept track of the word, because when I returned to India to start Tribeca Care, the biggest issue I had was the constant worry I had about my mom living alone by herself, while I was so far away.

Distance doesn’t just mean that you are geographically removed. It means that you lose touch with what’s going on. Less frequent conversations over different time zones – with no ability to reflect on the non-verbal cues of a conversation – means that you are operating from a very superficial level of understanding. Does “I am OK” really mean “I am OK”?

I have had thousands of conversations like the one above. A Bengali word ‘abhiman’ creeps into the conversation too. Why does someone’s mom not say that they are Ok, or admit to it when they need help? Its due to abhiman, one of those words difficult to translate into another language easily. I found a translation on Quora that seems close enough though.

Abhiman: Abhiman is an emotion that you only feel towards people who are important in your life – like your parents, your partner and towards your adult children – when you feel they are not giving you the importance you deserve. And there is an element of pride there too…

If there is one thing, I have learned in the last many years its that Indian parents have oodles of abhiman.

And this emotion is the one biggest bane to a long and healthy life for most seniors.

In my opinion, Abhiman is probably one of the biggest reasons for senior parents not seeking help when they need to. The other big reason is of course the anxiety of losing, one by one, the faculties that an adult takes for granted, and the need to hold onto the feeling of independence as long as one can.

So on one hand the senior is getting less able, and on the other he or she does not want to own up to it. The combination of both is a cocktail of disaster waiting to happen.

As an adult child of a senior parent, there are some things to keep in mind to help cut through abhiman laden parents who are getting on in age.

  1. Come to terms with your parents aging and becoming less independent.

We are always proud of parents who are older and are doing things by themselves. “My dad still drives his car and he is 82”. And being independent even at 80 is something to be proud of. I personally want to be able to be independent and healthy at that age, but that is a story for another day.

But know that there would be issues. Try not to interfere with their independence, but do keep glancing their way, and occasionally checking in on them.

  1. Check in on them

Checking in on them is easier said than done. Remember the ‘abhiman’ issue.

So, what do you do when you live in a different city and don’t visit as much? The answer is simple. Seek help. Get third person views, like trusted friends, relatives, and professionals to check in on them. And this must be done at a regular cadence. Bimonthly or weekly. Anything lesser and it may be too late in case something happens.

The irony is that you need to learn to know how to seek help in knowing when your mom or dad needs help!

  1. Be objective and get in early in the least intrusive way

Get the information and decide on how you want to address it. Sometimes we see our parents as the strong independent people they were and admitting their initial issues in aging is almost accepting the inevitability of life. Tough but true.

Understand what options are there. Talk to your friends, check the options available. Get in sooner but be as less intrusive as you can – in the beginning that is. Later, you will have a bigger role to play. Your fortitude will be important then.

Maybe undertaking these steps can help alleviate some of your worries – not all of it, I am sure.

I, running an eldercare company, and living close to my mom, still worry about her. Her dementia is progressing, and all I can do is make sure she is comfortable and safe.

By Prateep Sen, Founder and co-CEO, Tribeca Care

We, at TriBeCa Care, care about you, and your family. Our Elder Care is categorically structured to provide the elderly with the support that they deserve. If you have any further queries then feel free to reach us. Call us at + 913366064208 or request a callback. Email us at