Wednesday 29 May 2019

My Most Prized Possession

This morning I received this beautiful testament of care from a devoted daughter, Jasmin Jeevanjee. I am delighted to share her story and how her 'Most Prized Possession' came to be. Thank you, Jasmin!

I was born and grew up in Nairobi. After completing my secondary education, I went to study abroad. I travelled extensively and eventually settled in London where I pursued a teaching career. My expertise was in Early Years Education.

My parents continued to live in Nairobi and I would visit them frequently. On a visit in 2012, I felt something was not right with my father.  He seemed more forgetful than usual and when he did not recognise an old family friend, alarm bells went off in my mind. 

In 2013, he was seen by a neurologist and diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Shock. Horror. NOT my dad!!!

It was hard to accept and indeed some of my family members were in complete denial. My mother who was of German descent and the matriarch of our family, looked after him and my disabled sister with love, dedication and compassion. She passed away in 2017 after a short illness.  Up until that time, my father had been fairly self-sufficient, but then we saw that he started to decline in his well being.  

As a family we made the difficult decision that I would resign from my job in London to look after things in Nairobi. So I found myself in my mother’s shoes and back in the land of my birth.  I had no idea of the challenges that this terrible disease would bring.  With the support and kindness of people that I have met, the support of my family and my teaching skills, Dad has the best quality of life and care that we can offer him.

After realising that I could not look after him single handedly, I trained up a team of carers who could help me. From observing my father’s ever-changing and challenging needs, I have put into place a programme of care that has allowed him to stay in his own home.
Although Alzheimer’s has left my father, a highly intelligent successful lawyer, a mere shadow of his former self, he can still read! Surprising and hard to believe as he does not recognise members of his own family or the home he has been living in for many years. He cannot read novels or even simple articles, but basic sentences and words, both in English and Gujarat, his mother tongue. He enjoys flicking through magazines and picture books. When he is seated in his armchair looking at the newspaper, I feel that my father has ‘come back’.

Most days he does not know who we are.  But when we wear our name badges, there is a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. He will blow a kiss or wave hello. He does not speak much anymore as he cannot recall words.

"We know who you are. So, why are you wearing that name badge?" I am often asked when visitors come by or I forget to remove it as it as it has now become my daily accessory. "My dad doesn’t know who I am", I respond. Although the reaction is often one of disbelief, sadness and pity, this name badge gives my father the comfort and reassurance that he is not with strangers but with his family and carers who love him and look after him. 
My name badge that cost a few shillings is now one of my most prized possessions.

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