Friday, February 24, 2017

The Bomber

Anna's Apartment Number Signage
We moved my father into a new apartment over 18 months ago. Why did I do this, specially when he has dementia? I really had no choice. The landlady of his earlier apartment wanted to increase the rent by 10% after an 11 month period (I assume she thought that we would be willing to pay anything given my father's state of health). I did not want to be held to ransom because of his age and illness and decided to move him. Tho' the new apartment is smaller and a little further away than the earlier one, I think it was a good decision. 

Anna's apartment number is B-53, a simple enough number, but one he can not memorize. I looked at ways to help him remember and finally hit on memory association. 

Me: Anna, do you remember the famous bomber used by the Americans in the Cold War?

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
Anna, of course, has no idea what I am talking about.

Me: Anna, do you remember the B-52 bomber?

Anna (brightening up): Yes! It was the aircraft that dropped a nuclear bomb on Bikini Island.

Me: Wow Anna! I didn't know that. Pause. Now all you have to remember is that your house number is one better than the B-52 bomber. You are in B-53.

And often, over the months, we have used this association for him to remember his address and that he is in Sheikh Sarai, Delhi. Three out of ten times when I ask him where he is he will say Delhi or Sheikh Sarai. The other seven times he thinks he is in Bangalore or Boston, or Fremont, or Washington, or London.

Then one morning this week....

Me: Anna, do you know where you are?

Anna (the master of hiding his disorientation): In a building.

Me: Yes, Anna. What is the address?

Anna (still hiding disorientation): It is a  nice place. Well done-up.

Me: Yes, Anna. It is your house. What is the address?

I get no response after asking him this question three times. So I decide to use the memory-association we have used in the past.

Me: Anna, do you remember that your flat number is one better than that of a famous bomber? 

This does not jog his memory.

Me: Anna, do you remember the famous bomber from a long time ago?

Anna (looking confused): Yes. Pause. The Unabomber.

Yikes! He is thinking of a completely different bomber.

I definitely think I haven't got this memory-association thing right!

Friday, February 3, 2017

For The Benefit of Medical Science

I return from the Jaipur Literature Festival on a real high. The sessions were great. My love for books and reading has been rekindled. And I have relaxed with college mates.

I am away for just 4 days. I go to see Anna on the 24th morning at breakfast time. Anna is sitting at the dining table as I walk in.

Me: I'm baackkk!

Anna is so focused on his upma that he does not hear me.

Me: Anna, I'm back from Jaipur.

Anna (giving me a sideways upward glance): Yes.

Me (obviously expecting more excitement): Anna, did you miss me?

Anna: You've been gone for 2 weeks!

Me (in a conciliatory voice): Anna, I've been gone for 4 days!

He doesn't really believe me. In his reality, it has really been 2 weeks.

Photo Courtesy: The Times Of India
10 days go by with Anna in a daze or sleeping most of the time. The constant rain on 26th January does not help. He is cold and stiff. One evening when I go to see him, he can barely shuffle his way to the sofa from his bedroom and has to be carried by the attendant and housekeeper.

Me: Anna, you are very tired today?

Anna: Yes.

Me: Why are you so tired today, Anna?

Anna: There is a lot of work to do.

Me: What work Anna?

Anna: The entire area needs to be sanitized.

Me (confused): Sanitized? Oh, OK.

Anna: And my clothes need to be burnt.

Me (huh?): OoKayy !?

I am wondering what is happening. What is Anna thinking about? I keep asking questions and I keep hearing about sanitization and the burning of clothes. Then.....

Anna: The cadaver can't be used now.

Me: What cadaver Anna?
I think that he is hallucinating about dead people. It's happened before and I know how to play along.

Anna: My cadaver.

Yikes! Anna thinks he is dead.

Me (deciding not to dwell on his being dead but on the use of the cadaver): Why is the cadaver of no use, Anna?

Anna: Because I am too old.

Me: Anna, medical science can use a body of an elderly person to study the impact of ageing and age related diseases. Not knowing more on the subject I feebly add - And many more things.

Anna (perking up a little): Really?

Me: Really! Pause. Anna, you always wanted to donate your body and organs to medical science. You have it on your Do Not Resuscitate Order questionnaire.

Anna: Yes. For the benefit of Medical Science. Pause. But my old organs are of no use now.

Me (waxing eloquently on a subject that I don't know much about) : Anna, I am sure they can use skin, and retinas, and veins, and liver, and blood, and marrow. There are a lot of organs that can be harvested.

Anna believes me.

Now I've gotta go out and really study the area of organ and body donation. Got some names and numbers at AIIMS. Internet searches and doctors, here I come!