Continuing from where I left off yesterday, let me start off by going back to the beginning of my caregiving experiences.
Urmeela suffered multiple cardiac and cerebral infarcts in 2001. After the initial hospitalisation and coming home she was advised to be careful and I was in turn told that her condition would have to be medically managed for the rest of her life. The infarcts enfeebled her and led to dementia as well. She had to be on medication and moderate exercise and generally kept without stress.
We were able to provide her with all these till her end which was sudden, painless and totally unexpected. There was just one hiccup and that was when I had to go to Tamil Nadu on a very lucrative assignment and I took her with me. She had all the material comforts that she had back at home, but was generally unhappy there as she could not understand or converse in the local language there and the neighbours were incapable of speaking or understanding English or Hindi. Since by that time Ranjan had married and well settled she went back home and became her normal self. Normal to the extent that her condition permitted. She however missed my company and therefore, I wound up my assignment earlier than I otherwise would have and returned to Pune to be with her.
In my father’s case, it was at Urmeela’s insistence that I agreed to take him in when his second wife died and her children conveyed their inability to care for him at the age of 91. He came to stay with us and we provided him with all the material comforts that he wanted including some that he had never had before. Four months after his arrival at our place, Urmeela died and since Ranjan by then had been divorced, our home became a home of three single men, each with his own priorities and quirks.
As I write this I am sharing my insights of what must have happened to my father to make his stay with us so unpleasant compared to the time I had with another care-receiver.
Till he moved in with us, my father had led a very independent and self centered life with his own set of friends, admirers and contacts. His move to our home in a different state and city where he had no friends or contacts other than his immediate family was the first big setback for him. That he had to adjust to a different rhythm in just about all walks of life for him must have been quite a task for a 91 year old man who had lived on his own terms till then. Being my father, he also expected that I would kowtow to him and let him be the alpha male at home, which I, by then a well settled old bandicoot myself would have nothing to do with. I tried to make him understand that he was at my home, not his and he had to observe my way of doing things. In retrospect, I think that this was the most galling aspect of his time with us for him, and I now really regret that I did not have the sense to have handled the situation differently.
I find it extremely difficult to be away from home and my comfort zone, and for him it must have been a traumatic change but I did not have the sensitivity to understand that. I was carrying a lot of baggage of my earlier relationship with him. His end was messy and the last six months of his life was the most difficult for me and Ranjan. His death came as a great relief. It is after his death that I was able to think about the four years that he spent with me dispassionately and how perhaps I could have handled the relationship differently.
Dilip’s father’s story is very much like my father’s. A fiercely independent individual who made good on his own and brought up two children to be good human beings. The daughter is married and not in a position to take him in. Dilip himself is just starting his life after a series of failures. He and his wife both work like almost all young people now have to do to provide good education for their two children and to pay off their mortgages. The old man has no place to live in having retired from a government job that had provided accommodation to him till his last working day. Keeping the father with the family in a small little apartment was proving to be difficult with the old man getting into incontinence and dementia and not willing to accept that he is now in need of professional care. Dilip has arranged to put his father in an assisted living facility, but the management of the facility is not able to handle the tantrums that the old man throws and want him to be removed from the facility. Dilip is now in a great dilemma and that is when he came to seek my advice.
All that I could do for Dilip was to share with him some of the mistakes that I made as well as some insights that I gained from such mistakes subsequently. Since I did not have any experience in handling an outside agency like Dilip now has to handle, I was not able to be of help there. I however have asked him to seek medical advice for his father’s condition at the home and to see if he cannot be managed medically. Unfortunately, the kind of home that Dilip can afford does not provide in house medical facilities and so an outside consultant will have to be arranged for and I hope that with such an intervention, the situation will improve and the old man will calm down.
The insight that I shared most with Dilip is the one about the loss of independence that affects old people most and how I was unable to understand this as being the cause for my father’s behaviour. Dilip seems to have understood this and hopefully he would be able to manage his difficulties better than he has been able to hitherto.