Subhra Chandola stays in Delhi with her husband Commander Mahendra Kumar Chandola. Recently, her centenarian grandmother whom she so dearly loves moved in with them from Dehradun.
Prior to moving in with her granddaughter, the centenarian grandmother used to live with her daughter (Subhra’s mother). Sadly, she suffered an injury on her spine. As advanced medical facilities were more easily available in the capital, the family decided to move her to Subhra’s home. Also, Subhra’s mother’s advancing age was making it difficult for her to look after her elderly mother.
The venerable senior citizen has seen several lows in life most notably multiple deaths in the family including the passing away of her spouse, her children, and their spouses. Despite the tragedies, the centenarian has been a pillar of strength for the family. She has been their superwoman. At the ripe old age of 80, she took over the mantle of responsibility of looking after two young children. She doubled up as their mother. Sadly, age has caught up with her and today the wonder lady is confined to bed and is down with multiple health conditions most notably dementia. She has to be handled gingerly and needs help for all her daily activities. Commander Mahendra says that despite all the constraints, the lady has an extraordinary sense of resilience and has not lost her zest for life.
Family Caregiver’s Reflections
Making key decisions
In order to give her the best medical treatment, Subhra and Commander Mahendra got the centenarian admitted to the best hospitals in the city. They even moved to a bigger house! It was during that time that the couple’s family physician suggested that they approach a home nursing care providing agency as she was very old and fragile to make frequent trips to hospitals.
Keeping those spirits up
Commander Mahendra says, “If you ask a 10 or a 98-year-old if they want to live more, the answer would be “yes”. She is alive and wants to live for a little more time. She is doing well. This happens only when the person is cared for. The desire to live is very important. You cannot compel that.” He explains that socially it is a call you make. You have to prioritize between other engagements and making yourself available for your loved one.
Managing the work
Commander Mahendra went on to add, “Even if one is 100 years old, the person feels taste. You need to pay attention to that. For e.g., we need to think about the variety in food. She has difficulty eating now. If we give her laddu today, we cannot give her laddu tomorrow. We have to make something else she likes. All this effort makes her feel that she is getting a lot of variety. It improves her outlook on life and desire for staying alive.”
Keeping the trust of the senior
Subhra and Commander Mahendra care for not one but two seniors, including the centenarian. They feel that the senior needs to trust you that you have the conviction and ability to care for them. “We feel that we are doing a good job. It gives us great satisfaction. We feel we are discharging an important responsibility and that we have to do it. It brings positivity into our lives” says Commander Mahendra.
The journey as and with caregivers
Commander Mahendra is all praise for Subhra. “Subhra is very alert. You need a family caregiver like that. If she hears a little noise, she goes to check what the matter is.” The certified nursing assistants (two of them from Life Circle) work in tandem with her. “If we leave the care responsibility totally on them, they may probably make mistakes. She (Subhra) also manages the medication tightly to ensure that no mistakes are made. She teaches standards of hygiene that she expects from the home attendant. For instance, she wants the bed linen changed every day. The home attendants are trained to do that. It takes time to build trust”, explains Commander Mahendra. “It works both ways. Between the family and the professional caregiver and with Life Circle” he says. “This has been earned mutually. It is not easy and it is not quick”, he adds.
In conclusion, India as a country has worked hard to improve its statistics pertaining to life expectancy at birth. We are now seeing the efforts yielding results. Now the question is how do we as individuals, families, and communities help centenarians have a good quality of life? How do we make them feel loved and cared for? How do we engage with them even when they may not be mobile, have coherent memory and conversations? Almost like an answer to these questions, Subhra says “My nani (maternal grandmother) is my silent companion. She indirectly motivates me to do so many things which can’t be counted.” The conversation with Subhra and Commander Mahendra Kumar Chandola was humbling, inspiring and touching and reason enough for the Life Circle team to get motivated to continue providing excellent home care services.