A WORLD WITHIN- A REMARKABLE STORY OF COPING WITH A PARENT'S DEMENTIA:
MINAKSHI CHAUDHRY- HAY HOUSE - PUBLISHERS INDIA- PAGE 241- PRICE RS 250/-
This is the prolific author’s thirteenth book. Her earlier books are very popular with children. Minakshi Chaudhry is a former journalist who now lives with her husband Rohit Kanwar in Shimla. A cancer survivor, she is the Founder-Trustee of Swarn Educational Welfare and Awareness (SEWA) Trust, a NGO working for the cause of breast cancer awareness and screening which has the laudable objective of reaching every woman in Himachal Pradesh.
The author has taken a personal diary approach in writing this book. While reading the book, one becomes involved with the characters and the love and affection for each other leaves a deep and lasting impression in one’s mind. The author (Rewa) lives in a close-knit family. They are four siblings strongly attached to each other and to their parents. The author describes how the greatest tragedy in their lives started unfolding on 3rd March 2012. Rewa’s Dadoo (father) could not recognize his wife Asha. It is a pathetic story of an intelligent and self-made man from very humble beginnings with almost nil parental affection who became a mathematics professor, who travelled extensively abroad with his family when he was posted in Nigeria, who was meticulous in his paperwork and record-keeping and who built a fortune for himself and his family by hard work, savings and by making shrewd investment decisions. But then a time came when he started gradually losing memory and from then onwards it was a downhill slide. A very proud man, at the same time modest, caring, friendly, helpful, charitable and a very practical and down to earth person. He didn’t believe in temple going,rituals and spiritual Babas. His religion was service to people which gave him immense happiness. Having lived a clean life with no bad habits and in a happy family environment, the diagnosis of dementia came as a deep shock to all family members. How could this happen to such a person? The author’s loving Dadoo was losing his mind.
Dementia is an omnibus term for a set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory. It is often associated with cognitive decline as one ages. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably as many people believe that they are one and the same. In fact, the distinction between the two often causes confusion for the patients, their families and caregivers. However, issues other than Alzheimer’s can cause dementia. Alzheimer’s and dementia are still a mystery in many ways. This is why the two similar diseases are often mixed up in every day conversation and understanding. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities and Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Dementia isn't a disease. It is a group of symptoms that affect mental tasks like memory and reasoning. Dementia can be caused by a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). This is what the author’s father suffered from. AD destroys those affected in a slow and vicious manner. It strips a person of every unit of his/her dignity and self-esteem and that too bit by bit.. The afflicted behave in a manner totally uncharacteristic of themselves. It is a terrible disease which gives a horrific time to the patient and caregivers.
After introducing the readers to the shock of non-recognition of his wife Asha, the author goes back to January 2010 and from there onwards how it all started and continued till February 2012 when Dadoo had almost lost his mind. He lives but it is a lifeless life. The author’s love and devotion for her father is very deep and touching. Taking care of a dementia patient is a challenging task for the caregiver. There are moments when the patient can turn angry, abusive and violent. Great tact and patience is required. The patients also become repetitive, monotonous, irritating and suspicious. Rewa has experienced all these emotions of her father. Supported by a loving husband who is equally kind and helpful, the author and her husband keep reaching to their doting father and provide admirable support to their mother to enable her to maintain her mental balance and control against such heavy odds.
4% of India’s population of seniors (above 65) of 100 million people suffer from dementia. That makes it a whopping 40 lakhs. The prognosis is scary. There are no medicines/drugs to stem the rot of the brain. The incessant killing of the brain cells finally reach the lungs and heart. Medical research is trying to find out the cause and develop medicines to arrest dementia and AD. It looks a long way off yet. The only people who can really make a difference will be the near and dear family members who can provide the love, care and affection to their beloved ones. The problem of dementia/AD is not confined to India. It is a world-wide phenomenon and is spreading dangerously.
Minakshi Choudhry has written a very readable book and has written it in a simple and lucid style. While reading the book, I often shared her emotions and feelings as I too went through somewhat of a similar experience. It is always good to know what needs to be done if AD strikes our elders. We should be careful enough to detect it at an early stage. There are possibilities of some reversal then. However, if it advances, then there is no cure for this devastating disease which is irreversible. The author has created a much need awareness of Dementia and AD through her book. The book is a great and courageous daughter’s account of a loving father’s stolen life. It is anecdotal, informative, and extremely readable. I strongly recommend it to children and parents. They might face the same predicament one day. There are many lessons to be learnt from this first hand and heart rendering account on how to cope with and manage an AD patient. Understanding this disease which can strike anyone beyond 60 and reaching out to them will greatly alleviate their loneliness and suffering.