There are moments during our research that the comparison between our native country, The Netherlands, and Cambodia are too painful to ignore. Like a physical experience, the visits and encounters with elderly people in their environment give you more information then we will ever get from so much interesting and well-written articles.
One concept in our research so far is the theme of health: how do you deal with sickness? In Holland, there is an governmental and private industry of care: systems that many Phd students promote on, due to the extensive and complex arrangements and structures. Here in Cambodia, we find a visible structure of hospitals in big cities, and health centers and clinics in rural areas.
To show you some of this reality for elderly, we will introduce Mr Nou Tab (89).
Living by himself, he has a lot of physical pain, preventing him from moving. Around his wooden bed he slowly moves and cooks in his house, and that is the limit of his access to the world. He tells us that when the pain gets too bad, he let his daughter call to a nurse, who comes to the village by motorbike and gives him an injection, for which he pays. This happens monthly.
He tells us that he mostly cooks himself, and has no income, but for the donations of rice gotten from an NGO. Before when he could walk better, he would go to the pagoda, and get some donations there from others. Looking at his situation, at his face, at his body, I wonder how much of his suffering would be over with some basic medicine and enough food.
I am no trained nurse or doctor, but I wonder: What would they say when meeting Nou Tab? Could they relieve his pain? Would they be impressed by the still strong body of 89 in these circumstances?
When we get home, Martijn points at a photo of an Dutch elderly woman, 3 times as big as Nou Tab, lying in her special medical bed at the window of her house. The headline? “I am entitled to proper care, and now I am suffering because of the lack of it!”