OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Tomorrow will be a better day!

Resilience, strength and the spirit to fight what was perhaps her last battle in life, with love and laughter.

Photo of Paddy Padmanabhan
4 6

Written by

It took us, my sister and I, perhaps 3 months to accept the new normal in our mother's life. Her ageing white matter had impaired cognitive abilities, irreversibly. Macular degeneration was slowly robbing her vision. She was fully dependent on 24x7 assistance.

The exact diagnosis of her condition was proving to be a challenge. The reticence of doctors to engage; some offering preconceived advise of how "old-age" can be, while others prescribed numerous inconvenient radio graphic tests and one concluded that it was dementia, after her visiting nurse had administered a questionnaire. The amount of time the doctors thought necessary to understand my mother's condition never satisfied us. We had more questions than answers, many times. This left my sister and me, infuriated. We were not ready to write our Mother off, notwithstanding the purportedly expert viewpoint.  Were we doing all we could for her ? Through all this Mother would just chuckle and appeared game for the next test.

We turned to the Internet. Piecemeal insights, personal stories and institutional perspectives were all consumed, interpreted over tearful conversations and inferences drawn. We had no one to turn to for validation. This unpredictable phase continued, until a forced hospitalisation caused by seizures, changed our life. We stumbled on what in hindsight, appears to be the optimal solution.

Mother was cheerful, she had full time nursing assistance at her rented apartment, stone's throw from a reliable hospital, medication that stabilised her condition while leaving her alert to enjoy music and pockets of time with us, the twin loves in her life. She even managed Skype and FaceTime with grandkids. The wheelchair rides allowed her to sense the setting sun; the curious kids who stopped by amidst their playtime, albeit with trepidation at her "different" greeting, lingered long enough to become names she recalled; and she never stopped being a Mother, as she recounted anecdotes or fables that presented the wisdom of undiluted values or morals. Her days were marked by events she cherished. She even gifted us with a brilliant smile some days. Such days became fewer.

" I am 86, going on 87,

bring out the wheelchair now,

better to roll, rather than run,

time to have some fun! "

We sang the above jingle to the Sound of Music tune on her 86th birthday and she took visible delight in getting it right.

Alas, a few months short of her 87th, her physical body could not sustain her spirited fight. She passed on, leaving a trail of unconditional love and images of her undiminished jest for life.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Need for ( even as we wait for more research findings) 1. A clinical practice that establishes with greater predictability, a course of action; periodic reviews for course corrections. Essentially a established normative medical practice similar to treatment practices for other potentially terminal conditions. 2. Investment in Social enterprises that can nurture the ecosystem for families.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Chandra Shekhar

Photo of Paddy Padmanabhan

Use this inspiration for Idea design

Photo of Shoba Raja

From Paddy's sister: We need a model coming from our experience that can guide others in comparable situations so they don't have to spend a lot of time, effort and emotion looking for answers and options..... 

Photo of John McGeehan

Paddy Padmanabhan thank you for sharing your mother's well-lived end of life! Your appreciation for the joys and strange turns taken as her body failed while her spirit stayed bright shows us how to approach our own end as she did: "Through all this Mother would just chuckle and appeared game for the next test." 
I admire your and your sister's persistence in questioning the pat answers and diagnoses of others. 
From my experience, hospice and palliative care fit what you 'stumbled upon' as the ideal circumstance, allowing your mother the familiarity and warmth of her home and family, with accommodations for lessened movement or other functions and pain care. 
I also love your idea of a social enterprise nurturing an ecosystem for patients, families and caregivers. Check out Aaron Wong 's What Happens After 40? and Why Can't Every Nation Have a Dignified 'Dementia Village' like the Netherlands? also Death Over Dinner 

How might we better make known what options are available to families when an elder falls, becomes frail or newly diagnosed with one or more conditions? How can we better prepare ourselves and loved ones for the unpredictable changes age and time bring?