Thanksgiving is not one of the holidays that is celebrated back in the Caribbean. However as the saying goes, “When you go to Rome you just do as the Romans do.”
Many Caribbean people get together with family and friends to do their own spin on the Thanksgiving festivities.
There might have been some gospel reggae or soca music softly playing as the families chow down on fried or jerked turkey, oxtails, rice and peas, fried ripe plantains, cabbage and carrot slaw, callaloo and, yes, macaroni and cheese.
Along with the main course, dessert would be a choice of sweet potato pudding, coconut bread, rum cake or coconut cake.
As a tradition at many Thanksgiving meals, families go around the table to give each person an opportunity to say what they are thankful for. Well we need to be thankful for those who have paved the way for Caribbean families to elevate themselves.
How are we as Caribbean-American immigrants treating our senior citizens? How are we helping our aging parents?
Back home on the islands, there are little to no options as parents get older. There are very few nursing homes, senior centers, rehabilitation centers and hospices for the ailing and aging population. In the rural areas, families do their best to get the proper health care for their elders who are sick. If they are terminally ill, they just do their best to make them as comfortable as possible at home.
They do not usually have the option of putting them in hospice nor do they have the means to pay someone else to take care of them. It is a lot different here.
Many senior citizens are put in a nursing home and are basically abandoned.
Caribbean brothers and sisters here is a word of advice on how you can support your seniors as it can be as simple as “senior proofing” their home by identifying changes that can help them.
Here is a checklist to assist in moving in the right direction:
Is a bathroom needed on the first floor?
Do handles need to be installed on the walls of the bathtub?
Is a shower chair needed in the shower?
Should an extra stairs railing be installed at the home’s entrance?
Is a footstool needed to assist getting in and out of bed?
Do they need a commode by the bed?
Is there a recliner in the living room?
Is anyone available to help with cleaning the house?
Seniors who require professional help may also end up needing financial assistance. There are many Caribbean families who used up all of their resources in caring for an elder and are not knowledgeable of other resources. Thus, they have used up their last dime and may have even lost their home in the process.
It’s a familiar series of events in our local community leading to a family losing everything and having no money for to bury the loved one.
Angie Udo-Inyang, originally from Jamaica, is very passionate about bringing awareness about situations to the local Caribbean community, especially since her mother passed away at the age of 40 due to disabilities.
“When my mother died, we did not know that she could have applied for disability,” said Udo-Inyang. “She could have had access to financial assistance and medical assistance that might have saved her life. There is so much help out there but if you don’t know what is available to you, then you cannot capitalize on it.”
As owner of Atons Medical Supplies in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, she sees first-hand that the younger generation takes more of a “hands-off,” reactive approach to their aging family members.
“Not only do we have to teach our children that it is not just their financial support that we need, but we value their emotional support,” she pointed out. “We want them to spend time with us. We need to educate them about the resources that are available in their community for their aging loved ones.
“Organizations like Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and County Office Services for the Aging in Delaware County can provide much needed support to these individuals,” she added.
So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us not forget our seniors who laid the stepping stones for us to become what we are today.