“It may be nature’s way of telling women to care for themselves more now.” - Dr Hariyati Shahrima Abdul Majid , Clinical psychologist.
It’s not an easy topic to talk about and there is not much exposure to us children on how to care for our mothers who are going through menopause. There is certainly a stigma around menopause and how it affects women as even the mention of menses is still considered a taboo in our culture.
It is prevalent in most religion that menstruation blood is considered unsanitary and society have groomed women into thinking that even saying the word “period” is so controversial. We know most of you call it time of the month, monthly friend or datang bulan ok.
So it is only natural that even menopause is not given much attention as there exist a negative perception that a menopausal woman will be viewed as an emotional, hormonal and erratic woman who simply cannot cope or be trusted
Before we plunge further into this topic let us be acquainted with the definition of menopause.
According to Malaysian Menopause society, menopause occurs when the monthly periods stop. If a woman has not had her period for one year, she is than said to have reached menopause.
A woman going through this episode will generally experience several symptoms such as the vasomotor symptoms, known more familiar as the hot flushes, sweating and fast heart beats. While the psychological symptoms include emotional liability, mood changes poor memory and tiredness.
It is certainly heartbreaking for us to witness our mother going through such physical and mental ordeals as menopause tends to alter everything that it is to a woman’s body. Complications that may surface as a result from menopause also includes heart disease and osteoporosis too.
That’s why, as children we must do our level best to make the process as smooth as possible for our mother.
If you notice that she has become easily irritated and tend to lash out at every little minuscule things that you or any of the family members do, try to remind yourself that these are hormonal changes that she has no control over. Take a deep breath and let it slide. Remember the countless times she has excused your pain in the a** behavior growing up too, ought to make you more patient to deal with the nagging.
As for the hot flashes and night sweats, be extra cautious for your mother’s condition as these symptoms can lead to dehydration and other accompanying symptoms such as dry skin, dizziness and headache. Make sure to offer your mother some water with added electrolytes. This will help replace some of the nutrients they lose when they sweat. An additional tip for dealing with a vicious hot flash? Cool down more quickly by drinking ice water too.
Also, when you offer them the drinks make it subtle lah. Nobody wants to be reminded that they’re getting old. Maybe when you offer them the iced drink, have one for yourself too so they would feel included. Key point is to divert their attention from the situation they are facing or rather, make them feel less lonely.
When your mum is going through menopause, her estrogen levels will dip. Estrogen’s job is to basically regulate the production of the hormone cortisol, so, when levels drop, cortisol production increases, causing fatigue and anxiety. As a result - she won’t feel refreshed or rested when she wakes up, this can persist throughout the day.
This is when you got to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty for some house chore works that you clearly have left her to do all this while. (admit it laa). Let her pull the blanket over for a few more hours in the morning. You on the other hand, get some breakfast ready, have the house looking spotless and shiny. This way, when she is ready to start her day, she will have less things on her mind.
Another thing to take note of is that menopause may cause slowed metabolism. A tremendous weight gain might take place even if there is no increase in eating! Think that sound frustrating for you? Try tackling that at double the age. Your mother may begin to feel hopeless about losing weight. Your role is to ensure that she fulfills her daily physical activity.
Encourage the family to do zumba sessions together or if your mother has a liking for gardening, motivate her into that direction. Make use of any of her favourite past times into a physical activity that she can maintain her health with. She may not lose the weight as quickly, but the goal is to get her up and moving.
Menopause can be quite a nightmare to those caring for a person with symptoms, but its an even more hellish feat to the one experiencing it first-hand. So always make sure to be thoughtful and kind. Mind your words too. After all, its the least you could do for someone who has carried you around everywhere for 9 months.
Even the thought of your parents growing old is enough to put you into state of total anxiety and emptiness. But time is inevitable, the best you could do is to prepare yourself to give them the most comfortable life as they reach their sunset years.
Watch as things gets emotional with Harvinth and Juanita in this episode of Hello I Have Issues - Episode 7: Elderly Parents as they discuss the heavy issue of opting for retirement homes for aging parents with Lydia Ng from Eden On the Park Nursing Care Residence.
Malaysian Menopause Society
MyHealth (Ministry of Health Malaysia)
New Straits Times