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[Opinion] Burying Alive the Senility

Posted March. 22, 2004 23:18,   


“If I become a dotard like you, grandma, I’ll bite my tongue to death! I hate being a load on my children! I will never be this in my senility!” This is a scene from KBS2 TV drama “Bravo Mom” where the mother, played by Goh Doo-shim, is shouting at her dotage mother-in-law. Who catches the dementia of their wills? The mother-in-law was once famous for her judicious and orderly character. Writer Roh Hee-kyung, who is aware of life’s fetters and also has deep feelings for people, secretly lays a surprising under plot here. The unexpected plot is that the senile mother-in-law is the future version of the mother.

8.3 percent of elderly Korean people, around 300,000, suffer from senility. It is grateful that the average life span increased due to improvement in the living environment and medical technology. However, it is also clear that the number of the senility will increase along with this. In the U.S., they speculate that one out of two people older than 85 years of age are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who caught the disease 10 years ago at the age of 82, cannot walk or speak. Nancy, who is devoted to her husband, is known to have said, “I suddenly realized how important each moment is.” However, normal people suffer just like patients. There are statistics that show that one out of two become melancholy and that one out of ten gets hurt or becomes ill.

The story of “Modern Burying of Old Man Alive,” in which the eldest son in his 40s left his mother who was recuperating from dementia, threw all of us into depression. She was an old mother, weighing only 38 kilograms. There is a possibility that he aimed for the insurance money, however the son made a testimony that he did this unspeakable action due to the difficult situation of having to pay for nursing and medical care costs with his 1,400,000 won monthly payment. She could have benefited from free recuperation system if he were the beneficiary of basic life guarantee. However, as he earned 350,000 won more than the required wage, they could not receive the benefit.

It is a serious issue that we cannot solve the senility problem only with filial devotion. To listen to the old saying, “Children become parents and parents become children,” we should always think about filial responsibilities. They say that from 2007, an insurance policy for recuperating the aged will be adopted, which will support up to 80 percent of nursing and medical care costs to senile old people. Thus, households with old parents will just have to wish that they do not come down with diseases until then. If amnesia worsens, it is their duty to lift their economic load by frequently going to the doctor.

Kim Soon-duk Editorial Writer yuri@donga.com