Caring a paralysed parent!

Dr A S Bhatia
“Upadhyayan dasacary acaryanam satam pita
Sahasram tu pitrn mata gauravenatiricyate”

These are the shlokas from Manusmriti, 2/145 , where the situation has been described that a religious teacher is ten times more important than a teacher, A father is hundred times more important than a religious teacher. A Mother is thousand times worthier than the father. Going one step further it is stressed that parents who give birth and rear children face agony that cannot be overcome in a hundred years. Therefore , the father, mother and teacher must always be kept happy and content through care and service . This is important to attain truth and success in life (Manusmriti , 2/227). I have read such similar things many times in my life , but the true realization came when my father suffered a stroke and was admitted in the ICU of Government Medical College Jammu. With the hard and devotional work of all medical and paramedical staff strengthened by strict infection control measures adopted in ICU by Dr Harleen , a microbiologist and daughter in law of this old gracious man , he survived the onslaught of death and came out of ICU at the age of 87 years after giving a befitting reply to death. But in the war he had to sacrifice his mobility! He was now alive but paralysed person with only left side of body working!
The real struggle started once we were out of ICU. Soon we realized that the things are not going to be a smooth sailing for him! What we never thought or imagined was going to happen in our life ! An active man , a retired engineer who graduated in 1950s from Madras , who throughout his life had strong social relationship with many stalwarts of his time like Ghulam Mohd Bakshi , the then Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, being a close associate of Lala Mulkh Raj Saraf and a class fellow and collegemate of Pandit Mangat Ram Sharma , Ex Deputy chief Minister and Health minister of Jammu and Kashmir , a close friend of Sardar Rangil Singh and Master Beli Ram was now struggling for his day to day activities!
Now in our home we are having a new born baby of eighty seven years old, white bearded baby! I could see equal resemblance between him and an infant! He was totally dependent on us for all his daily needs, may be call of nature or a feeling of hunger , someone has to be always on his bed side. I never reared my children, the whole responsibility was borne by Harleen, my wife, and I was given open choice to work in social field. Now It was a learning phase for me also. Going nostalgic, a scene rolls down in front of my eyes when in 1980s , an old lady probably paralyzed, kept on crying the whole day in our neighborhood. In those days we took it in lighter vain and used to run around her bed, which was always kept in the front gate of their home (Although in those days , there were no steel gates as of today, these gates were build of some wooden bamboo sticks) and some of naughty boys will mimic her loud shouts! I could never realise the mental and physical agony of that poor semiparalysed lady till I became a doctor!
Many of us in the civil society must be having one or two senile, paralysed and totally dependent senior citizens in their homes. It is the time to take care of them in a dutiful and scientific manner. In this busy era, where no one has enough time for himself, these patients are sure to get neglected. But we must realise that what we are today, is because of selfless love and selfless service of these persons. Listen to their voice, listen to their cries, get enough time to sit with them, talk to them, and make them eat with your own hands! Believe me, combing the hair of your parents, when they are unable to do it by themselves, changing their clothes when they are unable to, helping them to move out of the four walls of the room into the open street on a wheel chair will give you a divine feeling which I am sure you are not going to get in any place of worship!
Take proper medical advice from time to time, take them regularly to a physiotherapy centre, and make sure they do not get bedsores. Take proper care of their nutrition and hygiene. Try to maintain their normal biological circadian rhythm, divide the responsibility among all family members and do not forget to get younger ones involved in the whole process. Make sure elders are never left alone at any given point of time. Use of latest technology can help you to monitor them constantly. Get CCTV cameras installed in their rooms with the internet link on your personal mobile phones. Although it is a big tragedy to have a paralysed person in one’s family but your positive approach can make the end of life a peaceful and comfortable phenomenon for that person. Make them realize that they are still very important in your life. Remember, whatever you will be doing to your parents is being keenly watched by your offsprings and the same is sure to come back to you in your old age! Never ill-treat your elderly and handicapped parents in your life. Have patience, listen to them lovingly inspite of the fact that, they may be talking very irrelevant things because of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Realize that they are suffering from cognitive disorders and not you! Parents are the gifts of GOD, all our old Granths and religious holy books are filled with the episodes where parents are held above GOD, it’s time to go back to our age old Indian culture . Old age homes should be the last option for any of us in INDIA!
Jai Hind !
(The author is Principal Government Medical College Rajouri)