How to handle a parent who has become, bitter, rude and even more stubborn as they have aged?

DementiaThough this may sound pithy, it is true that old people are like children. And sometimes, the older they get, the more child-like and/or childish they become. While this can be endearing at times, it can also be very frustrating and annoying. Not to mention, difficult to manage.

If you feel that your elder loved one is behaving badly, ask yourself this question.
Is this completely new, surprising behaviour or is this their usual inherent traits getting magnified a bit (or a lot)?

If you feel that there is a sudden and drastic change in the personality of the person, then this could be a symptom of dementia. Seek professional help. Take the loved one to a neurologist and have a proper assessment done.

Dementia is a generic term for decline in mental ability of a person. It is not a specific disease. Alzheimer’s is one of the common forms of dementia among elders. Dementia results in a loss of ability to perform even routine tasks properly and the person suffering from this may become frustrated and angry at their own inability which can then manifest itself in the form of bad behaviour.

If on the other hand, the traits exhibited have always been inherent in the person, except that it is coming to the fore more often and more forcefully, then it could be due to other factors.

In both cases, a lot of patience, tolerance, love and care are needed. Here are few tips for handling such situations:

1. Try and identify the cause(s) for their frustration.

2. Help them in tasks they are having difficulty with.

3. Where possible assist them in finding ways by which they can remain independent, rather than taking up those tasks yourself. For example,

  • If they are constantly forgetting things, get them a board on which they can write things they need to remember and allow them to use it to supplement their memory.
  • If they are forgetting dates and seasons, get them a big calendar that they can refer to regularly.
  • If they are misplacing things, help declutter their living environment and designate places for the things they misplace. For example, a decorative and distinct keyholder can ensure that they hang all the keys there. A spectacle stand kept within ready reach can help them remember to leave their specs in the same place most of the time.
  • If they are getting lost, buy them a wearable GPS tracker. This may not help them but will help you ensure that they don’t wander away and get lost.

4. If they are abusive or physically threatening, then get them to sit down and explain why such behaviour is disturbing to you and ask them how you can make them happier. If that does not work, you can switch to expressing your displeasure at being abused and take certain actions to ensure that they get the message that you will not tolerate bad behaviour. For example, you can move out of the room saying “I am not going to come back till you calm down and behave properly”. If they get physically violent, get support.

5. If they are suspicious of you, don’t take it personally. Many times, you are the only person they are interacting with and so you become the easiest target to vent out all their frustration, anger and suspicion. If they are worried about monetary issues, keep their bank passbooks and other asset related papers somewhere close to them, so they can go through them whenever they want and reassure themselves.

Each case is unique. The main thing to remember is that you don’t have to face it all alone. Get help. Talk to your friends and family. Enlist their support. Talk to fellow caregivers. Join a self-help group. Approach NGOs that are working with elders.

Above all, tell yourself that their behaviour is not a reflection of their opinion of you. Don’t let your self-esteem suffer. All the best!

Transitioning from the saree to the nightgown

Cocoon adaptive clothingMost elderly ladies, especially in South India, have worn nothing but sarees all their lives.  While the saree is an elegant dress, it is quite a handful to drape, even for a normal person.  But to have to drape it on another person, that too someone who is confined to their bed is not only tedious but also difficult to manage for multiple reasons.  Just imagine having to change the saree every time there is a diaper ‘accident’ and you will understand some of the problems faced in such situations.

One such story involves an 89-year-old lady. This lady had been very active until she fell and fractured her hip a few months ago.  One thing led to another and now she is confined to her bed, and dependent on her daughter for everything.  A feisty lady, the perceived loss of control of the household and having to depend on others made her very difficult to deal with.

One of the things she refused to compromise on, in the beginning, was the saree.  She insisted that she had to be in a saree all the time.  And not just any kind of saree but one of the starched and iron cotton ones that she was used to all her life.  The daughter tried gamely for a few days but was unable to take on the additional burden of changing her mother’s saree two or three times a day.

She then bought nightgowns from us, but her mother refused to even consider them, even after she was given a wide choice of designs to choose from.  Finally, the mother and daughter had a big showdown at which time, the daughter reduced the choices to grey hospital gowns and our special design Cocoon nightgowns.  The mother finally relented and decided to go with the nightgowns, for she abhorred the dowdy hospital gowns, which she felt made her look and feel even sicker than she actually was.  Needless to say, the mood in the house subsequently went downhill.

We came to hear about this story when the daughter, the primary caregiver came to buy some more of our specially designed back-open nightgowns for her mother.

With dark circles around her eyes, hunched shoulders and a resigned look, she appeared to be at the end of her tether.  On gentle probing, she confided that she felt that she had let her mother down as she could not even meet the simplest of her wishes.

Once she narrated her story, we took a leaf out of another customer’ story (similar beginning, but a different ending), and suggested the following:

  1. Have specific visiting hours for her mother during which time her friends and relatives can come and visit her.
  2. Get the mother dressed in a saree for the those visiting hours, so she can receive her visitors the way that she liked – prim and proper in a starched cotton saree.

A few weeks later, the daughter came back for a few more of our nightgowns.  She seemed to be in a much better mood and was happy to share with us that our suggestion had worked very well and both mother and daughter were very pleased with the arrangement.

“Now that my mother has got used to wearing nightgowns, she finds them very comfortable and elegant.  She has sent me here to get some more, with clear instructions to get pastel shades because that is what complements her complexion”, she said with a throaty laugh.

On our part, we are very happy to have contributed in making the life of another care recipient and that of the care giver just a little bit better.

What qualifies someone for hospice?

hospice

Definitions:

Hospice:  A home that provides care for the terminally ill.  Cancer patients in their last stages and others who have six months or less to live, benefit from moving into a hospice as the hospice is geared to take care of their needs and ensure comfort and care.

Palliative care:  Palliative care refers to treatment given not towards curing an illness, but towards keeping the patient comfortable and pain free.

Looking after a loved one who is terminally ill is one of the toughest assignments one can have.  Firstly, unless one is a nurse or a doctor, one is not fully qualified for the task at hand.  Secondly, if the loved one is suffering, watching them from close quarters can be really traumatic and both emotionally and physically draining.

Under such circumstances, opting for hospice care may be the best thing one can do, for oneself and for the patient.  A hospice is geared to look after the terminally ill and will be able to keep your loved one as comfortable as possible.  In addition, many times, they will have licenses to procure and prescribe pain killers such as morphine, that are not available to others.  On top of that, this will give you the opportunity to spend quality time with the loved one rather than constantly worrying whether one is doing enough for the loved one.

In India, there are quite a few charitable organizations that run palliative centres.  Most of these however cater to the poor and destitute. They do the best that they can but given that they are charity run and are invariably filled beyond capacity, they may not be suitable for those that are willing to pay for better quality services.

Searching on google for “hospice”, “palliative care”, “terminally ill care” and similar words along with the name of one’s city will give one a quick overview of the available options.

It is important to remember that considering the option of hospice care for a loved one is not an act of abandonment, a sign that one is relinquishing one’s responsibilities or dereliction of duty.

Under such circumstances, it may be the right thing to do for one’s loved one.

Humanitarian Award for Probus Club Of Chennai

The Probus Club of Chennai received the Humanitarian Award from the Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya Samithi in recognition of  the yeoman service that they did during the floods in Chennai in the year 2015.  The award was presented by Hon’ble  Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu and received by Probian President RT Namasivayam.
Award to probus by VP
“Probus Club of Chennai,apart from fellowship among members,undertake projects for the benefit of the society.
During the floods in Chennai in the year 2015, the club collected contributions from members and donated the following.
1.1000 saris to slum dwellers in Mylapore.
2.Rs.70000 to Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya Samithi, T.Nagar for purchase of machinery.
3.Rs.70000 to M P Aanandh Matriculation HSS for purchase of computers.
4.Rs.45000 to a NGO to construct a thatched house in a village in Cuddalore District.
5.Blankets to an old age home and an orphanage in Nanmangalam.
6.Free medical check up to senior citizens in Mylapore.
Apart from the above,Probus Club has revamped toilet facilities in Gopalapuram Boys’ HSS.
This Humanitarian Award from Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya Samithi.The foundation for this school was laid by Mahatma Gandhiji.”

Are we any close to a cure for Parkinson’s?

parkinson-TAThere is an article in Wired about 23AndMe’s quest for Parkinson’s.  23AndMe, as you know is a company that is decoding the human genome in search for patterns to help us understand diseases.

Parkinson’s is an incurable neurodegenerative disease that affects 1 million Americans. The biggest risk factor is age, but certain genetic mutations can increase risk too. 23andMe reports two of them to its customers, which each increase the chance of developing Parkinson’s between about 30 and 75 percent. (Sergey Brin, the Google cofounder and ex-husband of 23andMe founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki, carries one of those mutations, called LRRK2.)

But scientists don’t know how the disease works or even how much genetics play a role in its development and progression. Unlike Huntington’s or hemophilia, there’s no single genetic signal for Parkinson’s. 23andMe is betting that through brute-force pattern matching, it can map the constellation of genetic causes—and potentially inform new treatments.

To read the entire article go here.

Wheelchairs and air travel

bhadras-staff-provides-special-assistance-to-passengers-at-chennai-airport-terminalI recently took my mother-in-law to Mumbai for a family wedding. While she can walk a bit, she finds standing for extended periods and walking long distances very painful, so I ordered wheelchair support for her at the time of check-in.

The Indigo airlines people (MAA-BOM) were very kind and helpful. They came and found us even before we reached the check-in counter and got her comfortably seated in a wheelchair. They then took her through security and and ensured that she reached the gate well before flight time. They then came back at the time of boarding and made sure she got on to the plane before anyone else and was seated comfortably before the rest boarded.

Similarly at the Mumbai airport, after everyone had disembarked, they brought a wheelchair through the aerobridge and remained with us till we got into a pre-paid taxi. The person manning the wheelchair even took her to a disabled toilet before we got into the cab. He remained patient, courteous and kind through out.

Our return was by Jet airways. The embarking process went smoothly with the wheelchair available to my mother-in-law from the airport entrance itself all the way to the aircraft. I was extremely happy with the service and it made my mother-in-law’s travel much less of an ordeal than it could have been without the wheelchair support provided by the two airlines.

At the Chennai airport, after the flight landed, we waited for everyone to disembark and then started to move forward towards the aerobridge when a flight attendant announced that wheelchair users should use the rear exit. We turned around and went there only to find a flight of steps down (no aero bridge). When we protested, they said please get down the steps and we will get you a wheelchair. So we helped her get down the steep stairs which she managed with a lot of difficulty. At the bottom, they said, please get into the bus and we will get you a wheelchair at the terminal. It was just another 20 meters and she was game, so we did not think too much about it. However, getting into the bus was something else! The first step of the bus is a good foot above the ground and she really found it difficult to climb in. Finally, my wife and I literally lifted her on to the bus while the ground crew stood around watching.

Not surprisingly, at the terminal end, there was no wheelchair waiting for us. We got her down from the bus and started making our way towards the baggage carousel. Just as we were almost at the carousel, the wheelchair finally arrived. As a saving grace, the attender stayed with us all the way to the pickup location a good 200 meters from the arrival hall.

When it comes to accessibility services, we are almost there, but not quite yet. The strength of a chain is that of the weakest link. Similarly, the final quality of the service depends not so much on the parts that you do well, but on the places where you drop the ball. In this case, the disembarkation process at the Chennai airport was a disaster in terms of service. Jet airways needs to take note and improve on their service.

I will be writing to them about this so they can really consistently do their job well. If you have a similar experience, please make sure you write to the concerned authorities so that they can improve upon their services. If we don’t tell them, how will they know they need to improve?

Towards a strength-based approach to elderly care

08kisrmA strength-based approach rather than a deficit-based approach towards ageing could well have an empowered senior citizen stepping into a journey of a “well-being” experience.

Strength is a capacity – a talent, ability, skills or multiple intelligences; whereas the deficits are the physical hurdles of old age that bring about various disabilities.

Kalpana Goel from School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, Whyalla Campus, Australia, who was in the city for the ‘Healthy Ageing’ conference organised by the Rajagiri School of Social Sciences, said that “well-being” is not just a physical experience, but a “happy” state of mind and body.

The idea was explored by Vanessa Leane of St. John Ambulance Australia and Dr. Goel in a project that focussed on the strength-based approach to the older people.

“The idea was to generate the identity of the senior citizen in his or her strengths… to explore their strengths that they had accumulated by virtue of their lives,” said Dr. Goel. If their strengths are used as a resource to generate well-being, it removes the barriers created by the frailty of old age, environment and other constraints like lack of support or care. Their strengths, which make them happy, get buried because of loss of hearing, loss of spouse or loss of a close friend. The new digital world could be used to help them bring back their strengths, she said.

The governments should work out community programmes to explore the strength-based approach to well-being that would help the elderly give back to society the goodness they had accumulated.

Society should recognise the value of the strengths of the elderly, instead of focussing more on the physical needs of the ageing body, said Dr. Goel.

Society should recognise the value of the strengths of the elderly

Society should recognise the value of the strengths of the elderly, says Kalpana Goel from Whyalla Campus.

Click here to read the original article.

Understanding generic medicine

Generic-DrugsA gentleman I met recently thought that generic drugs were the same as spurious drugs. I was shocked and explained what generic drugs meant. Thought I should put down the explanation here for the benefit of others who may be thinking along similar lines.

A pharmaceutical company makes a medicine after years of research. It then files for a patent and sells the medicine under a brand name. During the period that the patent is valid, no other company can manufacture the same product. Obviously during this time, the cost of the medicine will be high as the company has to recoup all its expenses.

However, the patents issued are valid only for 20 years or so. After the expiry of patent, any other pharmaceutical company can take up the manufacture of the same medicine and sell it under a different name. This product is now called a generic equivalent of the original medicine.

In essence, Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug. In other words, their pharmacological effects are exactly the same as those of their brand-name counterparts.

Generic drugs can be and usually are very much cheaper than their brand-name counterparts because the generic drug manufacturer has not put in any money on R&D, clinical trials, FDA approval, etc. which usually form the bulk of the cost. Their only costs include the cost of the ingredients that go into the medicine and the manufacturing and packaging costs, which are usually only a small fraction of the overall costs.

Spurious medicines, on the other hand, are fake products manufactured by illegal companies which look like the regular products but contain none of the original ingredients.

I hope now you are clear about the actual meaning of generic medicine.

Now why aren’t the generic drugs much cheaper than they are? Well, they should be, but market forces prevent them from being sold at that rate.

Another question you may have is why Doctors don’t prescribe generic drugs to you. Well, the pharmaceutical companies that hold the patents incentivize the Doctors to prescribe their drugs and hence the Doctors do so. On your part, you can always go to the pharmacy and ask for a generic equivalent and take that with full confidence.

Do you know generic drugs can be up to 80% cheaper than their brand-named counterparts!?
When more and more people become knowledgeable about generics, hopefully the market will wake up and start making generics more affordable. Just imagine, your medical bills could quite easily be halved!