Anna Is Losing Weight to Parkinson’s but Still Loves His Ice Cream

Ice cream turns out to be the best bribe for my Parkinson’s afflicted dad who is losing weight.

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Here’s to the magic of ice cream. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

Anna, the foodie, is losing weight.

It seems losing weight is quite normal for people in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). I’ve read that if a PD patient has a normal diet, and still loses 8 kg or more in a year, then the chances are that the patient is reaching the end-stage of the disease (and life).

There is really nothing definitive with Parkinson’s Disease. Each patient is different.  They progress and react differently. Most doctors are unwilling or unable to predict what will happen at end-of-life. But, let me save that for another post.

Back to Anna’s weight. He has lost 7 kg in 8 months. And that has me worried. He has been ill for a number of those months. Respiratory issues in November, eosinophilia in December, and then loose motions in January. But, he’s been eating OK through those illnesses. And exercising. So, his loss of weight is baffling.

Anna has lost 7 kg in 8 months. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)
Anna has lost 7 kg in 8 months. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

The Back Scratching Story

The weight loss really hit me last week. I was having coffee with Anna in the morning. He asked me to scratch his back. Normally, the attendant does this for him, but that day, I did.

Now, scratching Anna’s back has some serious method to it. It starts with spreading the fingers – phalanges bent – scratching from spine to shoulder joint. After about 10 to and fro strokes, the scratching moves to an up-down motion from collarbone to shoulder blade. This progresses to long strokes of scratching from shoulder blade to hip, sweeping from spine to edge of waist and back. Sometimes, we scratch his back through his T-Shirt and sometimes, directly his skin.

And the man purrs like a cat when his back is being scratched. His frown disappears. He smiles.

This time, when I scratch his back I feel bones. Knobby shoulder bones. Sharp shoulder blades. Rib ridges. And I realise, really, how much 7 kilos mean on a body! We talk about his weight loss. Though he is eating less (quantity-wise), it’s not that less to cause that much weight loss. Food is regular food – veggies of different colours, fruits, nuts, proteins, carbs.

And of course sugar in ice cream, laddoo, coffee, etc.

Ice cream works wonders as a bribe. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Ice cream works wonders as a bribe. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Of Food Bargains and Ice Cream Bribes

Me: Anna, you have lost a lot of weight! I can feel your bones.

Anna (giving me a sideways glance and a small grin): I was always bony.

Me: Rubbish! You were never bony. You were healthy. You are eating OK, but losing weight.

Anna: Maybe, I should eat ice cream only once a week.

Me (not sure how resisting ice cream will stop weight loss): Why? Ice cream is a good energy snack after a walk, Anna.

I can almost hear wellness advocates who read this, wince at the thought that ice cream is a good energy snack! But it is! For Anna.

Me (sharing the day’s menu with him): Anna, you are going to get vegetable upma with yogurt for breakfast. You can have mango milk mid-morning and masala dosa, chutney-pudi and huli (Kannada for sambar) for lunch.  Sounds good?

Anna: Yes.

Me: You also have to have green coconut water. Have it in the afternoon with some almonds and walnuts.

Anna: OK.

Me: You also have to have papaya today.

Anna: Ay-ya-yo! Why? It is torture. Anna hates eating papaya.

We go through all the reasons why he has to have papaya every day. Yet again.

Me (shamelessly bribing him): You can have an ice cream when we return from your evening walk.

Anna (after a defeated pause): OK-amma. If you say so.

Anna’s weight loss hit me when I was scratching his back for him. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)
Anna’s weight loss hit me when I was scratching his back for him. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

Me: Anna, if you have a motion today, you can have energy-bomb for dinner. Or else you will have to have besan-ka-chilla.

My mother called paneer burji energy-bomb when we were kids.

Besan-ka-chilla helps Anna evacuate his bowels.

Anna: With this menu, I can assure you that I am fully fed up!

We have a good laugh at this. His humour is intact.

Me (showing him an ad for Greek Yogurt in the newspaper): Anna, what is the difference between mosoroo (Kannada for yogurt) and Greek Yogurt?

Anna gives this some serious thought. Noisily slurps the last drop of coffee from his mug and looks me in the eye and says: “The real difference is in the spelling!”

Annnnnaaa!

(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.)

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