A Day at A1 Snehanjali… A Date with Future Imperfect

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Today was a day long-awaited. Having joined the Founders of Silver Innings in their noble efforts and cause in my small way and having heard about A1Snehanjali, established by Silver Innings, under concept of A home away from home. I was eagerly looking forward to spending a day at A1Snehanjali – Assisted Living Elder Care home. And the day was here, Finally! We started bright and early. The roads leading to the home were verdant, picturesque and inviting with the continuing monsoon showers cleansing the aromatic surroundings moreover. What I was anticipating, I don’t know. But the sight that awaited me at Snehanjali was beyond my imagination. It’s really a home and such a lovely one at that! The warm vibes that greeted me as I entered were unmistakably welcoming and homely. “Just like home” is what remained stuck to the top of my recall.

As we entered, the residents having finished with their breakfast at 830 am after their bed tea at 630 am were leisurely filing into the open activity area surrounded by greenery of Chikoo, Guava, Papaya and majestic Coconut trees. The activity area being covered on top with a lovely green awning was cool. Green lawns surround the community area, the whole atmosphere so comforting and inviting. Drawn to the whole tableau in front of me by an invisible attraction felt rarely, we greeted each and every member of the Snehanjali family joining us one by one at their own pace, being introduced to them with a warm handshake or a hug like an old family member. The whole scenario, a kind of family reunion on a weekend, completely unexpected yet as accepting as a warm hug into the comfortable arms of family. I was impressed on witnessing the feeling of familiarity and intimacy between the residents, caretakers and wonder of wonders, Us! Actually am yet to get over the wonder of it all. My eyes get all wet yet heart so comforted by the awareness that such people, places and relationships exist still. Being a proud emotional family person yet I can state that I am secure now in this knowledge. But I jump ahead forgive me.

The easy camaraderie shared between the residents was so evident that I couldn’t help checking how long each of the residents had been there. And what a revelation it was! The kind of sharing and caring happening was wonderful. My colleague was carrying gifts for the residents to help them with their entertainment and recovery of the primarily Alzheimer’s affected residents. I was prepared to feel sad and sympathetic for the residents there, I admit. But let me in the same breath unabashedly proudly say that I felt that if at all ever I was in their situation, I would be lucky to find a place like Snehanjali. It may lack in super luxurious resources but makes up for that abundantly in love, care and true empathy. The interactive intellectually stimulating aids  got for the home were so warmly welcomed with such individually unique unpractised warmth that it charms me still.

The kind of equation that some residents shared with each other was as primal and warm as the human race itself. They may have forgotten what class, caste or race that they belong to but the values remain ingrained. The Alzheimers may have taken over their mind but not their body or spirit, No sir! Not without a fight. They can’t articulate feelings yet so very nice and clear in expressing them. The instincts tell them what’s right or wrong or of their rights. The relationships of heart are independent of any reasons. The human drama and interaction at play here will engage anyone. The sweet romance of early friendships, the familiarity daily forgotten then refreshed. It’s so sweet, so natural yet so essential as such, as yet again untouched by the erstwhile forgotten wizened emotions. So melancholic it all left me feeling.
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My reverie was broken by the sound of laughter and chatter. Seemed it was recreation time after their regular exercise session. The colorful games and aids were all laid out on the tables around which the excited residents were sitting, trying their hands on one game or another assisted by their caregivers or us when they got stuck. Their motor abilities, sight, hearing, touch, coordination between physical and mental faculties, all getting engaged and exercised. Oh what fun it was to see the beads being strung together painstakingly, the colorful plastic disc crowns being constructed and then being presented to each other and us. The star of the whole pile was a life-like baby doll wrapped in diaper and towel, just like a newborn. The residents clicked with it instantly. Maybe it brought back latent memories of their earlier sweet time now forgotten. They were really connecting to it affectionately. Holding its tiny hands keeping it covered, cuddling and tickling its tiny feet. It can’t be put into words the waves of feelings that were hitting my conscious and subconscious.

They all looked so natural, normal, cheerful and healthy. On talking to the pioneer founder of this unique home, Sailesh Mishra, I got to know that although all of the residents were in various stages of Alzheimer’s but the remarkable thing was that none of them had any disease progression at all after coming here. This condition is not reversible but it’s progress can be slowed and that has what has happened for each and every resident here. Really amazing and so heartening. The care, affection, socialising, company, regular physical and mental health monitoring by Doctors, Psychiatrist and Psychologist was arresting the progression of disease. In addition various specialists in their fields are invited regularly to bring about variety in their routine mental and physical exercise.
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After the fun it was time for lunch in the airy, well ventilated dining room, the walls of which were made cheerful with lovely colorful hand painted pictures by staff, their family and volunteers. Meanwhile I wandered around the spacious quaint bungalow. The front of it is covered by floral canopy of lovely, lively pink. The surroundings are open and covered with greenery and wild splash of colours from different flowering shrubs and seasonal local fruit trees. A small lawn with velvet grass underfoot, a small walking tiled path in a separate part of the open area inviting a quiet unobstructed walk. There’s a generator and big fresh drinking water storage tank at the back for uninterrupted power and water supply. The rooms are well lighted, airy and ventilated with comfortable beds and an Almira storage for each person. The rooms too have cheerful paintings of flowers on the walls. I absolutely loved this touch there. In the centre of the living area following the lovely verandah where evening activities of diya paintings etc. happen is drawing-room with television and Gods of all faiths protecting and watching over the activities of the home and it’s residents. Beside it is the office space for work from, maintaining individual files on each resident with daily details of activities along with CCTV monitor to watch over the activity of the entire premises and incidents if any. Medical records, daily observation and individual changes if any etc are maintained scrupulously. The kitchen is neat clean and hygienic with big fridge humming away busily in a corner. Fresh Fruits vegetables stored neatly ready to be washed, cut, prepped and served.

The aroma of wholesome tasty food made me hungry too. We were served food just as residents which was wholesome, nutritious and well-balanced. After the meal residents went to their rooms to rest and nap. Before the evening tea and snacks followed by walk etc. Then TV time while having soup before dinner and finally retiring for the day with a glass of milk under close watch and care of the staff of caregivers each of whom is well-connected to residents and is aware of their individual wants and likes and more importantly dislikes. There’s a phenomenon called sundown depression which has to be watched out for in the residents.This whole experience was overwhelming to all my senses. Meeting cheerful Bhaskar uncle, pretty Mira Aunty, enamoured by her but smart and dynamic uncle who talks fondly of his home country Seychelles. Yet another reticent yet curious aunty. The sweet Peter uncle, the deft with hands uncle, ever smiling…and All so sweet yet unique. As a token of appreciation we were presented with a bouquet of wild flowers and the book Karma Kurry for the mind, body, heart and soul featuring life story of Sailesh and his journey with and for the cause of elderly for me. Will come back for sure and will keep coming back…

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