My 92-year-old father, a retired army officer with two heart attacks, 25% heart function, and advanced Alzheimer's, fell critically ill in early September 2023. He developed dysphagia, a common Alzheimer's swallowing complication that worsened with the disease's progression, leading to a lung infection. He feared eating and drinking lest he aspirate food and choke. He became so weak that he had difficulty coughing and spitting.
His condition deteriorated rapidly, and he became unresponsive and withdrawn. His eyes lost their focus, his words became slurred, and he couldn't even hold his head up.
I was advised by doctors to get his blood and urine tests to assess the condition, but he had stopped passing urine and trying to do a blood test in the condition my father was in, was unfathomable. No one who has not handled a person with advanced Alzheimer could understand that giving an injection to a person who screamed if touched with a wet cloth was in no state to be injected. But caring for my father over six years, I had decided I would not let anyone force him with anything, let aside injecting. I had no time to assess whether what I was doing was right or wrong, but I was sure of one thing: it would make my father miserable beyond imagination, and that was just not acceptable to me.
"After receiving assurance from my esteemed mentor, Dr. M R Rajgopal, I no longer doubted my decision. With his guidance, blessings, and the support of a compassionate nurse, we successfully nursed my father back to health. We employed symptomatic treatment, administered chest physiotherapy, and used a nebulizer to deliver essential medication. Thanks to these efforts, we spared him the hardships of hospitalization and invasive procedures."
While we were able to get my father to bounce back physically, he remained silent and emotionless.
I spent sleepless nights trying to think of how to bring back the spark in his eyes. I knew that simply feeding him wouldn't be enough.
One day, I remembered how much my father loved little toddlers. I turned on the TV and played funny videos of kids. His eyes lit up immediately, and he watched them endlessly. He even signalled to others caring for him to watch the kid’s video. I was overjoyed to see his response & confused when he insisted, he wants those babies in the TV.
Refusing to risk the LIFE that had kicked back in my father, I sourced out real-looking dolls for him. And the effort paid off, he was thrilled like never before. He spent hours teaching the dolls to say "good morning", "good night," and to identify their nose, hands, and eyes. In fact, playing with dolls he has started using both his hands. (He would only use one hand before this episode.)
I'm overjoyed and grateful that I managed to bring LIFE back to my dad without invasive tests or hospitalization. He's happy at home, surrounded by loved ones. Even though he still has Alzheimer's, his occasional restlessness is a blessing compared to his previous state. It's like handling a demanding but loving child.
"I'm facing a sweet challenge because my dear one is now a huge Amitabh Bachchan fan, hooked on 'Kaun Banega Crorepati.' He keeps asking me about Bachchan, and trust me, it's no joke. I just hope his dementia helps him forget this obsession, even though his excitement is truly heart-warming."
"I share my story to inspire others caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's or similar ailments. A few years ago, I knew nothing about palliative care until my father's Alzheimer's diagnosis. It's a specialized approach focused on enhancing comfort and quality of life for patients with serious illnesses, even terminal conditions like Alzheimer's. My hope is that others find conviction in the power of palliative care through my journey.