When My Anna Had to Move Houses in Delhi

We moved my father into a new apartment over 18 months ago. Why did I do this, specially when he has dementia? I really had no choice.

The landlady of his earlier apartment wanted to increase the rent by 10 percent after an 11-month period (I assume she thought that we would be willing to pay anything given my father's state of health).

I did not want to be held to ransom because of his age and illness and decided to move him. While the new apartment is smaller and a little further away than the earlier one, I think it was a good decision.

While the new apartment is smaller and a little further away than the earlier one, I think it was a good decision. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

Anna's apartment number is B-53, a simple enough number, but one he can not memorise. I looked at ways to help him remember and finally hit on memory association.

Me: Anna, do you remember the famous bomber used by the Americans in the Cold War?

Anna, of course, has no idea what I am talking about.

Me: Anna, do you remember the B-52 bomber?

Anna (brightening up): Yes! It was the aircraft that dropped a nuclear bomb on Bikini Island.

Me: Wow Anna! I didn't know that. Pause. Now all you have to remember is that your house number is one better than the B-52 bomber. You are in B-53.

And often, over the months, we have used this association for him to remember his address and that he is in Sheikh Sarai, Delhi. Three out of ten times when I ask him where he is he will say Delhi or Sheikh Sarai. The other seven times he thinks he is in Bangalore or Boston, or Fremont, or Washington, or London.

Then one morning this week....

Me: Anna, do you know where you are?

Anna (the master of hiding his disorientation): In a building.

Me: Yes, Anna. What is the address?

Anna (still hiding disorientation): It is a nice place. Well done-up.

Anna, what is the address of your new house? (Photo:iStock)

Me: Yes, Anna. It is your house. What is the address?

I get no response after asking him this question three times. So I decide to use the memory-association we have used in the past.

Me: Anna, do you remember that your flat number is one better than that of a famous bomber?

This does not jog his memory.

Me: Anna, do you remember the famous bomber from a long time ago?

Anna (looking confused): Yes. Pause. The Unabomber.

Yikes! He is thinking of a completely different bomber.

I definitely think I haven't got this memory-association thing right!

(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)