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From Scotland, on a discovery of India

Shyama Rajagopal
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Inspiring journey:Ann Pascoe with her husband, Andrew.
Inspiring journey:Ann Pascoe with her husband, Andrew.

While India looks to the West to learn how to get things done more technically, professionally and scientifically, the West looks up to India to get a feel of the human touch that is missing in the practices abroad, especially so in health care and care of the elderly, says Ann Pascoe from Scotland, who is an Alzheimer patient care giver.

Ms. Pascoe's journey to India to know more about caregiving in a community surrounding has led to her wonderful feeling of the bondage people have among one another.

‘Emotions count'

“We are so technically perfect that we manage to lose sight of what love and human touch means”, said Ms. Pascoe, who is a caregiver to her Alzheimer's disease afflicted husband Andrew for the last 11 years.

“I don't want anyone to take that journey alone”, she told The Hindu while visiting the activities of the Alzheimer's and other Related Disorders Society of India in the State. She was on a Travelling Fellowship funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Attending community meetings organised by the Geriatric Club at Thevara, she said that such a meeting would be wonderful back home, but she was unsure of how to get things going for such a meeting.

Ms. Pascoe, who used to manage a company, left her busy schedule entrepreneurship to take care of her husband who she realised, needed someone to take care of him. And taking care of dementia patients is just like mothering toddlers.

“As most mothers foresee what the child might do and pre-empt a mishap, my learning process of dementia and Alzheimer's was full of such events,” said Ms. Pascoe.

“As a care giver to an Alzheimer's patient, I have learnt to change my ways and views to suit my husband. I was a stickler to put things in the correct place and liked symmetry in arrangement but now I let Andrew's view to prevail and my house is now full of crookedly arranged items”.

A lonely journey

The early years of learning about the disease was difficult, said Ms. Pascoe.

“Even though there was support from Alzheimer Scotland, it was a lonely journey and I would be all tears just as someone would just pat me or hold my hand to console.”

The stress took a toll on her health which she overcame with better understanding of the Alzheimer's disease.

Her determination to learn about the disease led her to be a member of National Dementia Carers' Action Network and later became the Alzheimer Scotland Carer Ambassador.

New lessons

When she decided to tour India, everybody wondered what she would do with her husband and it was a shock to them when she said that she would be taking him along.

“I have now learnt to manage him and can leave him at a gated community so that he would not get lost. My husband had picked up photography since his dementia set in and he also writes his blog with my help. Sometimes he forgets how to upload the photographs and needs to be prodded”.

It was when she heard Dr. Amit Dias from Goa present a paper last year on how community projects created to bridge the gap between struggling families, lack of resources and overworked clinicians that she wanted to know more about such projects.

“It was about raising awareness and understanding the illness, which is a vital part of an area where diagnosis is extremely low and dementia is seen just part of the aging process”, said Ms. Pascoe.

She believes it has been a tour of give-and-takes as there is much to share about the experiences and achievements in the West in managing people with dementia and their carers and vice versa . In Kerala, she went to meet Dr. Jacob Roy, the chairman of the Alzheimers' Disease International in Kunnamkulam.

Ms. Pascoe had also been writing a blog about her experiences in India at At Carer's Voice.

Shyama Rajagopal

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