Earlier this week, at my granny’s funeral, I stood with my memories of her since I was a child. A memory that had glimpses of a second entity that was surprisingly not my Ma or Papa, but it was of a lady dressed in a sky blue color loosely fitted uniform. Reema- the person who had spent years with her since granny took up the wheel chair. She bathed her, dressed her, fed her, made her hair and maybe just sat down to spend some time with her while she felt lonely and depressed to give her company.
Once I watched Reema and my granny sitting idly at a park, looking at children playing among themselves, where she used to visit often on her wheel chair to get breath of fresh air or look at the sunset. Granny was forgetful and demented in her last years. I used to stay with granny since I was a child and Ma and Papa had to leave for another town for work. She sometimes didn’t recognize me. I once asked Ma, “How can granny not remember me but never forget Reema?” She told me with a tremor in her voice,”I am her daughter, and my mother doesn’t remember me dear.” I had no words to help her with. Ma couldn’t stay to take care of granny as her work demanded a lot of travelling and also she had not much to do to help granny as she wasn’t trained to do the chores granny needed help with. It wasn’t easy for Ma as she felt guilty of not being able to help her own mother.
Granny lost most of her memory by the age of 68. She sometimes did not even remember having taken her meals. The doctor said she would soon need someone who is trained to take care of someone suffering from Dementia, who can be by her side 24X7.
We were looking for a trained, reliable and compassionate help who would take care of her not as she was trained to, but like she needed to be dealt, with patience and tolerance by a kind person. Someone who knew how to take good care of her and help her with her daily living activities as well as not make her feel dependant. We knew friends and acquaintances who hired “ayahs” for their elderly at home or to take care of someone who had undergone a surgery lately. They however complained often of things missing from their homes or the “ayahs” being rude or being careless with their patients. After being only more worried on learning about these experiences, we came across my friend’s Dad who told us about a Home health care company. On calling up their helpline number we were told they have exactly and more than what we were looking for. The company provides geriatric care to the elderly who stay alone or need caregivers to help them with their daily chores. We wanted to know more and hence booked an assessment the next day.
After getting to know what they do for the elderly, we were quite happy to take up their service and that is how we got Reema. The smile on my parents’ face revealed how relaxed they were and how much they had faith on Reema. Granny although was very shy for the first few days and hesitated to take help from her as she wasn’t comfortable taking help from an unknown person. But during her last years granny was most comfortable only with Reema to share anything and everything. She confided the most in her. She even waited every morning unaware that she was looking through the window outside for Reema to come and help her, spend some time with her.
Granny’s last few months were a learning experience for me. Reema taught me how to be patient with a person who doesn’t even remember herself, who cannot express, who is now a child and hasn’t learnt to speak yet. She cared more than any of us could for granny. There were times when granny wasn’t obedient and Reema got irritated and wanted to give up, but, the next moment she thought she was losing control of herself, she gathered the tolerance because she understood.
She understood what we didn’t.
At granny’s funeral, Reema was there with us, looking at her ashes burn. She had been there through all the days and nights when granny threw up or peed in her sleep. She was there to clean her up, dress her, make her hair and maybe just to sit down to spend some time with her while she felt lonely and depressed to give her company. She was granny’s help, friend and caregiver.
When I look back at all that she had done for granny, for us, I am not envious any more. I am grateful and indebted to her for taking care just the way we wanted, by being reliable and compassionate and patient. Granny is at peace now and so are we, because of that one person, who never left her when granny needed her.
My granny’s caregiver.
Disclaimer: Based on a true story