Home Alone!

 In Integrative Medicine

When Elderly are Home Alone!!

Mr. S a quintessential gentleman of 92 summers lives alone in Chennai. After an illustrious career in the Indian Army, having occupied high positions and served actively in 3 wars, he retired to a salubrious lovingly constructed home, over 3 decades ago. Over time his home has emptied itself of his loved ones: first the children and their families migrating to live and work abroad, then the sad passing of his beloved spouse. Yet Mr. S has soldiered on- visits to his local club to play Tennis and Bridge, daily walks in the neighbourhood park, his favourite newspaper read with diligence and attention, periodic socialising with friends. Annual visits to the US where he would spend the better months of the year with the family. The ravages of time have however taken their toll. The onset of dementia about 5 years earlier, gradually made it impossible for him to continue his routine. Most of his friends have either passed on or are too immobile for him to meet frequently. The children and grandchildren visit, often taking turns, striving to attend to his every comfort. He does, however, find it increasingly difficult to place them, and to have meaningful interactions. The sad reality is that this proud soldier is in the winter of his life, home alone!

Mrs. M of 87 summers is home alone too. Widowed over a decade earlier, this mother of two successful NRI male professionals has lived alone in her Chennai apartment all this time. Her successful sons who are both in the 60’s and have made their lives and careers abroad. Spirited and sagely, she lived an independent life, commuting in autos, managing her own financial affairs, travelling abroad periodically to spend time with her children, grandchildren and recently great-grandchildren. All this came to a halt however, a few months earlier, when she was struck down by two successive neurological conditions: a stroke that affected her mobility, from which she recovered, and inflammatory neuropathy that conferred fresh disability. Yet she has shown determination to survive these setbacks, to stand up and walk again. Her children and their families have tried to visit, to spend time, to attend to her every need. But in their absence, which sadly is much of the time, the care has been provided by a loyal team of caregivers, lead by our TRIMED home care doctor and home therapy team.

Like many elders both Mr. S and Mrs. M have had several ups and downs in the months/ years that we have been privileged to care for them. It’s not just the periodic health check or blood test. The many mini crisis- episodes of breathlessness precipitated by a change in weather, sometimes by an evolving pneumonia or reactivation of asthma; falls in the bathroom, sometimes with just soft tissue injury needing an ice pack, on other occasions a fracture needing hospital intervention; urinary tract infections on occasion leaving the person confused and disoriented; the care of the home alone elder is a veritable roller coaster ride. Yet, through regular medical visits, sessions of acupressure and reflexology, Physiotherapy, cognitive retraining and supportive counselling, therapeutic massages- both Ayurvedic and Naturopathic, our team has kept these elders in good spirits, pain free, able to cope with the ravages of time and chronic disease. TRIMED’s home care thus comes with a difference; not just doctor visits or lab tests, but care that uplifts the individual, rehabilitates them, improving life quality and activities of daily living, supports the caregiver, providing help in times of crisis and succour always.

That PICA (parents in India, children abroad) syndrome is a horrific emerging reality in urban India, came to the fore last week for us. Mrs. M became acutely ill, early one morning. From arranging an ambulance for immediate hospital transport, to rushing over to assist at 5.30 AM, the TRIMED team acquitted itself remarkably well. In the end we lost the grand old lady to the inevitable icy cold hands of death; a peaceful passing with as much comfort as we could muster. Until her family living abroad could come and take charge, TRIMED was in action- participating in making arrangements for the freezer box, funereal, even the priest! We feel greatly privileged to have served Mrs. M in this way. In the end, while circumstances left her “Home Alone”, she found TRIMED and therein a caring team of professionals, willing to go the extra mile.

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