The perfect companions
The Kumars are one happy family which consists of the couple, their five sons and an extended family. The couple have been happily married for over 55 years. The husband was in the civil services and the wife ably supported him with his career even as she managed her sons’ education.
When the husband was diagnosed with diabetes in his mid-30s, the wife took the malady in her stride and did not let it cause any stress on the family front. Thanks to the solid support provided by his wife, the civil servant was able to completely focus on his career.
When tragedy struck
Tragedy struck the Kumars in a big way when the wife was confined to bed following a knee replacement surgery in 2015. Despite these difficulties, she remained mentally alert. Things took a turn for the worse in April 2019 when she contracted pneumonia and had to be hospitalised. Her condition only went on to worsen and she breathed her last in hospital after a month and a half of hospitalisation. Her husband was under treatment in the same hospital too but on a different floor. As the doctors attending to both of them had suggested that their partners not be updated about each other’s health status, the husband was in for a rude shock when he finally came to know about his wife’s passing away. It was a severe jolt for him as he had not seen her for the last 10 days.
The sad aftermath
After his wife’s death, Kumar plunged into grief that only went on to aggravate his medical conditions especially Parkinson’s. He was catheterized. He could no longer swallow his food or talk. His family rallied around him to provide him the much-needed bereavement support. But the lacunae resulting from a beloved spouse’s death is difficult to fill. A tremendous amount of mental energy is required to heal. Sadly, his amazing energy that he utilized in the event of an adversity was missing. His pillar of support and lifetime companion had left the world and without giving him an opportunity to bid her farewell.
The decision to employ a professional caregiver
After his wife’s passing away, Kumar who was living with his wife independently could not continue with that lifestyle. His inability to talk, to swallow and the urinary catheter made it impossible for him to be left alone. He needed a caregiver round the clock. His sons decided to avail home nursing care from Life Circle, a home care service provider.
Caregiving – Bereavement support
Ajay, a caregiver with Life Circle, was assigned the task of providing post hospitalisation care and elder assistance to Kumar. Ajay had a tough job on hand. Kumar had to be fed every 2 hours so that his body got enough nutrition and hydration. Along with food, Kumar had to be administered five doses of medicine. The medicine had to be crushed owing to Kumar’s medical condition. Also, Kumar would refuse food and medicine because of which he had to be coaxed or force fed. This meant the routine took longer than usual. Patience was the need of the hour. Ajay did a good job. Gradually, Ajay’s patience and hard work began to show results. Kumar’s condition began to improve! Ajay started taking him to the park for his usual sit down with his friends, watched movies, listened to Kumar’s favourite old songs with him on his Saregama transistor and had conversations with him. As a result, Kumar slowly grew comfortable with Ajay.
Family Caregiver’s view
Kumar’s daughter-in-law and primary family caregiver is all praise for Ajay’s home nursing care. Because of Ajay they feel at ease with the patient’s diet, medication and overall well being. In addition, she says that Ajay’s systematic charting of intake and output of fluids, medication and vitals ensures that she can sit down with Ajay after her kids go to school to ensure that everything is alright. This also helps when the Life Circle nurse manager does his fortnightly visits. Ajay also knows Kumar’s likes and dislikes and so is a big support around the home.
About Ajay, the caregiver
Ajay hails from the Mau district of Uttar Pradesh. As his father passed away when he was very young, his mother raised four children single-handedly. Earlier, his brother used to be the sole bread winner. Ajay feels happy that he is now able to contribute as well.
Influence of Caregiving on Ajay
Ajay loves his job and feels a sense of responsibility and affection to Kumar. Beyond the practical aspects of his job, he shares a great bond with Kumar’s family. The family in turn love and respect him for his support. Ajay believes there has been a change in him since he started this assignment. For instance, he believes that some of the conversations with Kumar have helped him think about continuing his studies and getting a better job. He has started trying for government jobs. His experience should serve as an asset as he builds his career.
In conclusion, a bereavement phase can be a trying period. People have different ways of coping with a loss and keeping the memories of their loved one alive. Physical and behavioural changes are a part of the healing process en route to achieving normalcy. A good home attendant can play the role of a gentle partner in the process. (Names of the patient and family members have been changed to protect identities.)