by SS Kirti Kaur Khalsa, Tucson AZ
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa! Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
I have always had an affinity for my elders. I grew up in a multi-generational environment where elders were greatly respected and valued; they loved me and I loved them.
This flowed effortlessly into my work with Dr. Dharma Singh and the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. (The Siri Singh Sahib arranged it, so, of course, it would flow effortlessly, right?) Because of this, in the past 26 years I have learned a great deal about aging, memory, health, family dynamics when a parent is ill, and the psychological, emotional, social, and legal needs of older adults.
Several years ago, a few sangat members requested that I become their Medical Power of Attorney. I was also asked to translate someone’s last wishes to their family in another country, should they pass away. Another active person in apparently good health told me they didn’t expect to live for more than two years. Because of our work in the field of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Dharma and I were also asked to help in the care plan of a couple of people with memory issues.
In the meantime, several members of our sangat-at-large became quite ill or passed on. I became curious to know how well-prepared our community is to face illness, medical needs, financial choices, end-of-life issues, etc. And so I started talking to people about these matters.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that, as a community, we have nothing in place to address these issues that impact us all. I became very motivated to make a difference by offering support and education about planning for medical, logistical, and legal needs.
As a first step, I came up with the idea of creating a two to three-hour educational event with various speakers who would address pertinent issues. There are a number of medical professionals in our community who can contribute to this initiative.
I presented this idea to Hearts and Hands in Espanola and they agreed to sponsor a questionnaire for the ashram community. I also presented it to Sikh Dharma International and learned that there have been discussions about creating a “group home” for older adults who are struggling to live alone.
An educational program with actionable items fits hand-in-hand with other existing assistance programs any community can provide for our elders— which is all of us, to one degree or another.
Recently, Dr Dharma and I gave a short presentation at a Ministers’ meeting on symptoms and caring for someone with mid-advanced Alzheimer’s. I am preparing a short booklet on this topic. If you would like to receive a copy, please email me at [email protected].
About the Author
SS Kirti Kaur Khalsa is originally from Rome, Italy, and speaks fluent English, Italian, French, and Spanish. She became a student of the Siri Singh Sahib at age 19 and never looked back. She moved to the US almost 27 years ago, when the Siri Singh Sahib arranged her marriage to Dr. Dharma Singh. Kirti Kaur became a Sikh Dharma Minister in 2001. She has a passion for helping others, both as a Minister and as a volunteer with Rotary. She serves as the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.