Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guardians of the golden hour

Guardians of the golden hour - Dementia Care givers - ARDSI HYderabad


Neeraja Murthy meets a group of caregivers offering a pillar of
support to their loved ones affected by Alzheimer's
It is a sylvan house in a quiet road in Jubilee Hills. You enter and a
group of senior citizens are playing a game. Shyamala, a 69-year-old
former teacher looks around cheerfully as her 71-year-old husband
Krishnamurthy stands behind her. There is sudden excitement as the
group gets ready for a music session. The members sit in a group and
first start with a few stretching exercises. Shreshta, a little girl
in the group accompanying her grandparents narrates a Sardar joke and
there is laughter all around.

The music session begins and a 61-year-old participant Kavitha sings
the song Mera Jeevan kora kaagaz, kora hi raha gaya…. The get-together
ends when the co-ordinator Safina announces that their Meet on
September 21 will be at Sainikpuri. This is a weekly routine for
Shyamala, Kavitha and a host of other senior citizens like them, who
are no different from an old monument showing signs of decay and
resilience. Bogged with memory issues and behaviour problems to not
being able to do simple day-day activities… these senior citizens,
suffering from Alzheimer's continue their twilight years with the
support and care by their caregivers. Amidst regular media reports
about the harrowing time senior citizens face due to the neglect by
their children, it is heart-warming to meet the caregivers and know
the support they offer during testing times.

"Retired but not tired," exclaims Krishnamurthy, Shyamala's husband
who is her constant companion. "Shyamala's mother passed away two
years ago but she has forgotten it and sometimes she says she wants to
meet her mother," says Krishnamurthy.

"I was shocked that my heart did not break into pieces when my husband
forgot that he was a professor in an univerisity. Imagine seeing him
feel lost and disintegrated and not being able to connect things,"
says Prameela tears welling in her eyes. Safina, co-ordinator,
Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India, Hyderabad Deccan
(ADRSI, Hyderabad Deccan) says these awareness sessions try to engage
the participants with different activities. Kavitha, a native of Udipi
was working with a public sector organisation till she retired two
years ago. Her son, a software engineer accompanies her to these
sessions. "She gets angry and becomes aggressive. Sometimes, when she
sees my son playing, she starts shouting at him that he will fall off
while playing. That is a genuine concern but she would get too
paranoid," he says. The caregivers say it is heart-rending when the
family members see their parents or husbands/wives turn from dynamic
individuals, who could take on any challenge to disintegrate,
deteriorate and become dependant even to do basic things. "My husband,
a former banker was game for any challenge in life. Now, he forgets to
sign on cheques and cannot differentiate between currency notes. He
was a short-tempered and impatient person. I should have known the
symptoms," says Manjula.

Rukshana Ansari of ADRSI, Hyderabad Deccan says the awareness about
Alzheimer's is still low in India. "Even among general physicians, the
awareness is low. If a patient goes to a doctor to discuss about
his/her forgetful nature, the doctor just sends him/her back saying
that it is simple 'matimarupu' or ' satiyajaana' due to old age," she
says. Recently at the care-givers meet, she spoke about the functional
rehabilitation for persons with dementia. Alzheimer's is the most
common form of dementia and experts say one can delay the process by
being physically and mentally active. "Use it or lose it," smiles
Rukhsana pointing towards the brain. However, the irony is that there
are examples of people like Nani Palkhiwala, a brilliant legal brain
who was affected by Alzheimer's. As we observe World Alzheimer's Day
on September 21, it is significant that we not only speak about the
agony of senior citizens affected by Alzheimer's but also acknowledge
the support and care given by the caregivers.

(Names have been changed on request)

Dr P Vyasamoorthy, 30 Gruhalakshmi Colony Secunderabad 500015 Ph
040-27846631 / 9490804278.My blog:

You can have a website of your own, like me:

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