Of remote caregivers and happy endings…

Mr. P came to our store yesterday. Since his mother’s passing 6 months ago, he had not had any reasons to come to our store, so it was a bit of a surprise for us.

More surprisingly, instead of the usual glum look, he was grinning from ear to ear. And he had a lady in tow. With a great deal of affection he introduced the lady as his lovely wonderful sister from Delhi. He also announced that his sister had arranged for an all expenses paid 15-day trip to Europe for him and that he was leaving next week and would like to buy some Anti-embolism stockings for himself.

He chatted with us for a few more minutes, paid for the socks and left with a spring in his step.

We were happy to see this wonderful change in Mr. P for we knew that neither his life nor the relationship with his sister had been so sunny before.

His ailing mother had lived with him for over 10 years till her recent death. A seventy year old retiree himself, it must have been difficult to look after himself and his mother. His sister apparently had offered to look after their mother, but unfortunately the Delhi climate had not suited her so after a short stint she had returned to Chennai to stay with her son.

According to Mr. P, his mother had been a dynamic woman, till a sudden stroke imprisoned her to her bed. A lot of the frustration she must have obviously felt subsequently was regularly taken out on poor Mr. P, as he was the only one around, and that caused him quite a bit of angst. Things got worse when his sister came visiting (which she did diligently every month or so, for a day or two) as their mother showered a whole lot of love on her daughter during those monthly visits.

Mr. P found it difficult to reconcile the fact that he did all the looking after, but was treated so badly, while his sister could just breeze in once in a while, cuddle up with mom, feel happy and go back to her life.

After every such visit, Mr. P would personally visit our store (forsaking the door delivery facility), ostensibly to collect some more diapers for his mother but really to vent his pent up frustrations. Once in a fit of rage, he said “I do all the cleaning and feeding etc., and all I get is cursed roundly”. After fuming for a while his anger subsided, and then he continued “My sister is nice. What can she do if my mother is frustrated with me? I guess it is good that she is here and amma is happy for at least a couple of days”. On our part, we were happy to be his release mechanism. After all, we are no strangers to such situations having seen similar stories play out at many of our clients’s homes.

We have a name for people like Mr. P’s sister – Non-resident family caregivers. As a class, they are usually well-intentioned and try to be as helpful as possible. They are also usually guilt ridden, being unable to participate more in the caregiving process. However, their good intentions do not always translate into supportive action. More often than not, their well-meaning suggestions come out as ill-conceived meddlesome advice.

If you are a non-resident caregiver, understand that the primary caregiver is usually under a lot of stress and hence may be a little short of patience, even though they would very much like to have all the support from you. The best way you can be a remote caregiver is to be supportive of the primary caregiver and shower them with all the love and affection you can give.

Mr.P’s sister is doing just that and we can see how that is having such a positive impact on his life. We wish Mr.P Bon Voyage and wish him many more happy years ahead!