According to a key research study, the proportion of the elderly in south Asian communities will grow substantially over the next 2 decades.  It found that, other than NHS provision, the government gives formal care to no more than 10% of the older people from these communities.

Some of us, having brought up our children, feel that it is now the younger family members’ duty to provide support, while some of us consider it a natural part of family life. Since state care is perceived by many of us to suggest failings on the part of the family, some of us said that we preferred not to accept it. Professor Christina Victor of Brunel University, who produced the research report, noted the key importance of the family for all older people, irrespective of their ethnicity.

 Some of you are worried that the communities are changing and that in future, a modernised society will see families “less willing or able to care”, demonstrated by examples of older people being sent to care homes by their children. It proves the family’s major role in caring for older people, especially in the South Asian community.

When I travel to India to visit family, one of my favourite things is the number of people regularly coming and going to our house throughout the day and the constant flow of delicious snacks and masala chai! It gives me a strong sense of belonging and support because there is always someone there.

Family networks are very strong back in our home countries, and people there also have strong links with the community, so those in our communities who live there have the support of family and friends well into old age.  The idea of using care homes is not even entertained. So what is changing now? Why are community care services so important today for those of us growing old in the West?

I think a lot of it has to do with a changing social and cultural structure for those of us who are settled in the West. Firstly, it is less common to see more than two generations living in the same household, as more young families opt for an independent family unit, similar to that of the Western culture.

Secondly, we don’t have the same social and familial support as our home countries. Both men and women are working because of the cost of living so time is a huge constraint. The services of support staff to help with cooking and cleaning is not easily accessible due to the high cost so we are strapped for resources. So overall, we have to do more work with fewer resources.

Adding caring for elderly parents or parents and children with any form of disability is not an easy task. And that’s where community care can make a huge difference. That doesn’t mean sending our parents to a residential home in the conventional sense. It just means being open to the possible resources that community care may offer. For example, classes and groups that allow elderly parents to remain active and connect with their community. Or the available at-home care options that could help you manage your responsibilities with a little more ease.

We live in a changing environment and in order to live happily we need to adapt. Finding new ways of meeting the same needs that once came solely though extended family is a key step in that direction.