“I saw him, he looked extremely pale, painfully bitten by time and age. His body was delicately wrapped into several creases. With his impaired speech, even words were reluctant to come out. Everything around him was so numb that I feared making a move. He took little uneven space in that comparatively bigger and harder wheelchair. As I knelt to have a closer look, he was indifferent at first, but then, his eyes moved to mine. I thought to myself, how beautiful and sharp, they must have looked, when still young…now, withdrawn and sunken deep into a dark pit with no flesh to brace. I saw, I saw memories, they were still fresh and warm enough to be recalled but he did not remember anything. He had lost control over anything and everything that could have been remotely connected to him. Time is a powerful weapon, it destroys as much as it creates…
I stood up and realigned myself. This was not the first time, taking care of the elderly had become a personal journey, a mission, a conscious choice. I knew somewhere deep down that this is my life, my whole life…saving people from losing their memories.”
Manvi on Tanvi Mallya for Real Life Heroes
In the last 20 years, medical advancements have changed the face and pace of ‘Healthcare’ arena, be it the Stem Cell research or HIV medications, Cancer Therapies or Transplants, Bionic limbs or Human Genome Project. The medical breakthroughs have significantly enhanced the longevity of humankind. However, with the upcoming ‘Neurological Epidemic’ longevity may seem to be detrimental in evolutionary sense. Why? Because, ageing invites neurological disorders and most of them do not have a cure. Finding a cure may still be easy if one gets to determine the cause, which in case of neurological disorders, is believed to be sporadic and idiopathic. For e.g. Alzheimer’s, classified roughly 100 years ago, yet continues to be a prime focus for researchers trying to draw a correlation between biological changes and early onset of the disease, why its progression differs from person to person or what can potentially cure it.
Today’s story is unique and very special, it dwells into the art of coping with the loss of experiences, memories, emotions, abilities and gestures, it talks about healing. You know, fixing one that is broken is not difficult, only if, we fix our frame of reference too, and that, takes a lot of courage, several re-alignments, a strong distinction between who you really are and who you need to become to fix someone. At times, your personal battles will incapacitate you but, you will need to push yourself to extremes just to show compassion, or to be available.
Imagine, how difficult ‘Healing’ can be for someone who doesn’t even remember what caused the wound. With much love, I welcome Tanvi Mallya on my platform Real Life Heroes – By Manvi
(Pic Courtesy – Komal Sarvi)
“Imagine, feeling thirsty and not finding the right words to ask for water, or, walking upto your closet because you want to wear your favorite dress, forgetting why you opened it at the first place and pulling everything out to help you remember. Imagine, sleeping in a different place and waking up in a totally different one… THIS (and worse) is what someone with Dementia goes through every day.”
(Founder, Tanvi Mallya’s ElderCare Services)
“My first encounter with Alzheimer’s (a form of Dementia) was when I was 19 years old. I was studying at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. My grandfather, who was 74 that time, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There was very little social understanding of the disorder at that time. The Neurologist advised us not to let him wander out of the house unaccompanied. We helplessly watched him deteriorate every single day and it seemed like he went through all the stages of the disorder in 18 months. Co-incidentally, around the same time, there was a seminar on Neuropsychology at our college. I happened to attend it and was hooked on.”
For those who are relatively new to the term, Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology that aims to understand how behavior and cognition are influenced by brain functioning. It not only describes, but, explains and optimizes how different parts of the brain are responsible for different responses.
“I started looking out for courses in Neuropsychology. When I was unable to find anything suitable in India, I looked abroad. My immediate family was extremely supportive of my decision but my extended family was a bit unsure. Soon, it became a familial discussion, a subject which was ‘arty’ at best. I was thrown into a pool of doubts – from arranging finances to future stability. I like to believe that, people always have the right intentions, but, it is possible that at that point, their views were tainted with prejudice towards their understanding of the scope of what I wanted to study. Still, I took a plunge against all odds. My mother and my sister were rock solid, my dad needed to be convinced a little. He was his protective self and wasn’t sure how I would manage all by myself.
I was on a mission, there was nothing that could stop me. I picked up catering jobs, graded papers for the university, invigilated exams, even worked at sport events – basically, temped my way around to fund myself.
Since, my course was intensive and research heavy. Temping allowed me the flexibility of working throughout one or maybe two weekends and making enough money to sustain me throughout the month.”
Tanvi was fortunate to work with some of the pioneers in the field of Neuropsychology. Soon, she got a chance to work with ALSPAC, a research organization working on longitudinal studies. Tanvi worked on ‘early onset of Alzheimer’s’. Her thesis was based on Parkinson’s. The exposure further ripened her knowledge and widened her horizon. Everything was crystal clear now, the many uncertain futures that she can resuscitate through her knowledge and experience…
“I wanted to come back, I could envision what our country was deeply missing. As soon as I returned, the very next month, I got a job – coincidentally, the one that let me work with Dementia Patients. The universe had planned it all, I was being led to a certain path…”
(Pic Courtesy – Tanvi Mallya)
“The elderly and aged are happier when they are at their home, with their families. That is their entire world. All that was required was, to make their families understand the importance of being around. That’s how I decided, at some point in life, I will set up an organization that facilitates such conversations with much ease and comfort.”
(Founder, Tanvi Mallya’s ElderCare Services)
“After a couple of years, I re-evaluated my career decisions, my mother and my boyfriend (now, my late-husband) encouraged me (rather pressed me) to consider starting off on my own. They thought, the unbridled passion and the dedication would only be justified, if, I carved my own path. I took their advice and that led to the creation of ‘Tanvi Mallya’s ElderCare Services (TMECS)’.
Moving away from the comfort of a steady pay-cheque, I taught myself everything about business. I had to seek out, establish networks, refine operational processes and do all of that in limited resources. After a few brushes with unreliable web-designers, I created and designed my own website. I did not attend a fancy B-school and maybe, that was a disadvantage, but, people around me who believed in my dreams helped me. My younger sister, a Charted Accountant, helped me gain a better understanding of the financial aspects; my father who dabbles in labor activism and knows the laws thoroughly, helped me with the legal aspects, my late-husband, who’s an analyst, often discussed strategy with me – that was our pillow talk!
Creating a society that was inclusive and sensitive to the needs of the elderly was not just my dream, it was all of ours.”
(Pic Courtesy – Tanvi Mallya)
There are ~47 million people living with Dementia and ~10 million people living with Parkinson’s across the globe. In fact, there is an isolated village of Hogewey that lies on the outskirts of Amsterdam, a small town of Wheesp dubbed as “Dementia Village” by CNN. It is an entire gated village, the size of ten football fields, where every resident has severe dementia. The village has its own town square, theater, garden, and post office. However, the only peculiarity being – this one has cameras monitoring residents every hour of every day, caretakers pose in street clothes, and only one door in and out of town, all part of a security system designed to keep the community safe. There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility. Residents live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. The family members are encouraged to visit. Yvonne van Amerongen, the founder of this award-winning model of care, emphasizes on the importance of normalcy in the lives of Dementia patients, how they deserve to be treated as ‘normal capable’ human beings looking for a meaningful life.
Tanvi Mallya‘s ElderCare Services (TMECS) has similar ideologies. They focus on the emotional and intellectual needs of the elderly. They try to maintain brain activity and foster effective communication patterns between the family and the care-staff, and, all of that is done in harmony with the environment.
They specialize in caring for the ones who have dementia of any kind (Alzheimer’s, Vascular, Parkinson’s, Lewy-Body, Fronto-temporal) or have had Stroke. They also work with elderly who are perfectly healthy, but, just need some cognitive stimulation.
(Pic Courtesy – Tanvi Mallya)
“At TMECS, our professionals help the elderly explore various hobbies, re-kindle past interests, get more active on social media, engage in specially designed and curated brain games – all whilst keeping their cognitive and emotional standing in mind. Whenever a family approaches us we help them put together a care plan which addresses every need of their beloved in the comfort of their home. It’s extremely important to understand that – Alzheimer’s is not normal ageing and a positive diagnosis doesn’t mean all is lost. They’re still human beings with emotions, we need to come together as a society to create a cocooned environment for them. Remanding them to a care home is not a sustainable solution.
Countries world over are moving towards a more inclusive approach. There was a phase when ‘elder-care centers’ recalled ‘ashrams’, but in present scenario, the outlook towards senior living is evolving. However, the understanding that mental health is as important as our physical one needs to sink in. When families are planning for their elderly, they wouldn’t think twice about spending on physical needs, but, mental health is always slotted to ‘if it’s possible’. The other problem is, whenever someone thinks of elder-care, they think it should be a free-service or an NGO – but without a fee, how can quality of services be guaranteed?”
(Pic Courtesy – Aparna Bhasin Consultancy)
To promote awareness about Alzheimer’s and other age-related disorders, Tanvi Mallya and her team conducts countless free talks across the city, round the year. Their focus is to maximize the impact and hence, they often collaborate with social clubs/groups (Rotary, Lions, etc.), residential complexes, workplaces across the city, and communication mediums (blogs, websites, radio, magazines).
TMECS believes that no amount of awareness can ever be too small!
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around – Leo Buscaglia
(These journeys have been personally shared with me by our ‘Heroes’)
Know more about ‘Our Hero’ – Tanvi Mallya