Friday, March 4, 2016

Dealing with Distress

It’s been a crazy 3 weeks. It’s been weird..... hmm..... no odd....... no…... I think it has been more disconcerting than anything else.

Anna has been more “out-of-sorts” than "present". In an hour-long conversation, he can be disoriented, lucid, witty, depressed, and worried. Responding to him takes the mickey out of me. I feel like I have been thru’ a wringer.  Here is an example.

Distress by Moshfegh Rakhsha
Yesterday evening, I wait at the dining table for Anna to come out of his room. He walks out and when I look up, my heart sinks. He is frowning and looking very troubled.

Me (concerned): “Anna, what’s the matter?”

He looks at me but does not see me.

Me (raising my voice): “Anna?!”

Now I can see his eyes focus, there is a glimmer of recognition.

Me: “Anna, what’s the matter?”

Anna (very distressed): “We have to go to the hospital immediately!”

Me (wondering if he is feeling really unwell): “What happened? Did you have another loose motion?”

Anna (his voice goes up a notch in distress): “Mamta has broken her foot and we have to go to the hospital.”

Mamta is my younger sister who lives in Bethesda.

Me (worried ‘coz I think that something has really happened to Mamta): “Anna how do you know that Mamta has broken her foot? Did she call you?”

Anna: “No. Vikram told me.”

Vikram is my brother who lives in Westboro. Now I am really worried. It’s got to be serious if Vikram called to tell Anna.

Me: “Vikram called to tell you that Mamta has broken her foot? When?”

Anna: “Vikram told me just now. A few minutes ago.”

Anna (looking around for Vikram): “We have to go to the hospital right now. Has the car come?”

It now dawns on me that Anna may be imagining this entire exchange. I am not sure. His distress is real. Tho’ my brother is not in the house, Vikram could have called Anna. I am more than a little frazzled, and don’t realise that Vikram would call me if there was something serious vs call Anna.

I check with the attendant if Anna has had any calls from Vikram or Mamta. He tells me that Anna has not. So now I know what to do. Calm him down without contradicting him.

Me: “Anna, Mamta is in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. The Ivory Coast. In Africa. 

Anna looks at me with an expression that says, “What’s that got to do with her breaking her foot, dummy?”

Me: “Anna, you are in Sheikh Sarai. In Delhi.”

Anna’s expression does not change.

Me: “Anna, we can’t go to a hospital in Abidjan. It’s in Ivory Coast. In Africa. We are in India”

I have to go thru’ this sequence of comments a couple of times till he says “Ivory Coast and India are on two separate continents.” Finally! He gets it!! 

Or so I think.

Anna: “Tell Mamta to go to any Government Hospital.” Pause. “They will treat her.” Pause. “We need to go to the Orthopaedics Department of the Hospital with my CGHS card.”

How old does he think Mamta is? How old does he think he is?

Oh! And tho’ India and Ivory Coast are on two separate continents (a fact he remembers), it has no bearing on his reality where he needs to go to his daughter who has broken her foot.

We spend another 15 minutes, going thru his reality that has Vikram in the flat, delivering the news that Mamta has broken her foot and is in hospital (somewhere where Anna can visit). A hospital to which we need to go to immediately. Post-haste!  That we have to carry his CGHS card so that she gets CGHS benefits.

I finally decide to send Mamta a SKYPE message to call Anna as he thinks that she has broken her foot and is distressed.

Me: “Anna, I have sent Mamta a SKYPE message to call you to tell you that she is fine.”

Anna (his frown is disappearing slowly): “OK.” Pause. “You should also send a message to The World Bank to tell them that she has broken her foot.”

Oh dear me!  Here we go again.

Anna: “Tell them that it could be a broken bone or a torn ligament.”

Me: “Anna, that is a job for the hospital and not The Bank.”

Anna: “You never know with a hospital in Africa. Tell The Bank. They will take care of it.”

I am sure they will, Dad!! Your daughter is a queen!!

But, I decide not to respond on this. And we go thru' this sequence of "tell The World Bank" for another 5 minutes.  

I finally just pretend to type something on my phone, and tell him that I have sent a message to The Bank too.

Then we spend another 10 minutes on what we can do in Africa!

I finally convince him that we should leave The Bank in Africa to do what they should. That we cannot do anything. That I have sent Mamta a SKYPE message to call him. So all he has to do is wait patiently. This calms him. Clearly he has great faith in "The Bank in Africa"!

I hear Sister Francis's voice in my head saying, "You will burn in hell if you lie to you parents!!"  

But that is some time away, I hope.  I need to resolve the current burning issue. One of the things that has helped in the past is to take him out for a walk or a drive. It helps him when he is confused or has delusions or has hallucinations. 

Me: “Anna, do you want to take a walk?”

Anna: “No. Mamta is in the hospital. We can’t go for a walk. She will call.”

Me: “Anna, I have SKYPE on my phone and I will carry it with me. So when she calls, we can take it on the road.”

Finally, Anna says “OK.”

And off we go....

My sister has never broken her foot.


  1. Yes, she is! :-) And she did call to tell him that she is OK.

  2. I remember Mamta - Wasnt she the Head Girl in school?
    I never miss your writing... Thanks for sharing... And God Bless!

    1. Thanks for reading these stories Pradyum. Never sure if people will like them. I write because I want to. But it a great boost to have people appreciate what I write :-)

  3. Hi Sangeeta .... got this link after your wonderful session in NIIT on Women's day and I have read some of the articles including this one. You are taking very good care of your father. You articles and care-giver tips are very useful for many. All the best to you and your father. God bless!!

  4. Thank you GI. I do what I believe I should, and what I can. It is not the best ever.
    I too enjoyed the session at NIIT Technologies. Wishing you and your colleagues all the best "Taking Charge!" of your careers.