In August 2015 my father was hospitalized for paralysis caused by cerebral venous thrombosis. My family and I could barely wrap our heads around the term or the situation. We were emotionally drained, unable to ease my father’s pain or help him get better. Not to forget, in my case, the distance of 9000 miles made it all the more impossible. When I finally reached home, my father had returned home from hospital. He had bruises all over his face from the fall after the paralytic attack. He could barely walk straight, talk or remember. I had prepared myself during my 36 hour journey, to be strong, to witness all of that. Watching him though, my knees went weak and a huge lump formed in my throat. For the first time, I was face to face with the possibility of losing a parent.
To fight the odds, we took our father to one of the best hospitals in the country (India), where modern medicine and my family’s (particularly my mother & brother’s) incessant services revived my father. That was only 20% of the battle though. Once discharged from the hospital, my father’s home care turned out to be the real challenge : taking care of his needs while ensuring he inches towards being independent enough for his chores all the while being respectful of his wishes, wasn’t easy. There was no manual or parenting class on ‘how to parent your parents’ . Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’ & insights from friends who’d been through similar situations helped fill that gap.
Its been 3 years since then and my father is able to perform his chores by himself. He doesn’t go out of the house since new surroundings throw his balance and stability off the charts. He has lost a lot of body fat but he eats a decent diet. He is 77 years old and continues to live with my mother in our ancestral home in Punjab.
Why am I talking about all of this now? So I can share what I learnt and continue to learn, hoping it might help someone else wriggle through a similar life experience:
#1 Don’t Push Your Unwell Parent To Be The Parent You Want Them To Be: Just like you can’t force your child to be someone you think they should be, don’t force your ailing parent to try to become what he/she used to be before getting sick. Let them…