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Who Knew That Nutella Would Convince My Old Dad to Take his Pills?

Anna polished off a Nutella breakfast with glee, before I could convince him to take his Parkinson’s pills!

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For my dad who has Parkinson’s, a Nutella breakfast worked wonders! (Photo: iStock)

Anna still has the throat infection that started just before Diwali. The doctor decided not to give him any medication and advised steam inhalation 2-3 times a day. We have been doing this religiously.

Then one morning, around 9:30 am, I get a desperate call from his attendant saying that Anna is refusing to eat breakfast and have his medication.

I run to his place to find Anna sitting stubbornly away from the dining table. He, like an ostrich with its head in the sand, has his eyes closed, thinking that if he cannot see us we are not there.

My dad waiting for his breakfast on a good day. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)
My dad waiting for his breakfast on a good day. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

The Pill Dilemma

Me: Anna? What’s the problem? Why are you not eating breakfast?

(Pause.)

Anna: I don’t want to eat breakfast.

Me: Anna, you need to eat breakfast so that you can have your medication.

(Pause.)

Anna: I don’t want to have medication.

Having been through this conversation chain many times before, I try what has been successful before.

Me: Anna, if you don’t want to take all the pills, I can take out just the Carbidopa-Levodopa for you.

Normally this works, as Anna knows that he has to have his critical Parkinson’s medication, without which he stiffens up and cannot walk. However, this time I get no response – much less an affirmative one. He continues to sit like the Buddha.

Me: Anna, you do need to have your Syndopa Plus (the brand name of the Carbidopa-Levodopa formula he uses).

Anna: I don’t want to.

The numerous boxes of pills that Anna depends on. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)
The numerous boxes of pills that Anna depends on. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

Me: Anna you know that having Syndopa is critical. You have to eat something before taking it.

Anna: I’ve had coffee.

Me: Anna, that was at 7 am! You have to have something more substantial.

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The Magic of Chocolate Spread

Then there is a long break. We are at impasse. He won’t eat, and I don’t know what to say or do.

And then Anna says: If I don’t eat and have medicine, I can die faster.

Oh boy! Now what do I do?

I decide to ignore this statement, and talk about food.

Me (trying to tempt him): Anna, shall I make uppitu (upma) for breakfast?

Anna: No. I don’t want breakfast.

I run down all the options and get a simple “No” to all of them. No poha. No daliya. No omelette and toast. No dry fruits and oats. No cornflakes and fruit. No sooji. No to everything.

If I wasn’t worried and frustrated, I’d be angry at this childishness!

Anna agreed immediately to a breakfast of toast smeared with Nutella chocolate spread! (Photo: iStock)
Anna agreed immediately to a breakfast of toast smeared with Nutella chocolate spread! (Photo: iStock)

Then I ask, Anna, will you have a slice of toast with something? Peanut butter? Jam? Chocolate spread?

I hit pay dirt. His eyes open. He looks at me. He says, Chocolate spread.

Before he can change his mind, we move him to the dining table, and quickly put Nutella on hot toast. He eats it with glee. After he finishes it, he licks his sticky chocolate-peppered fingers. And then has his medication.

Me: Anna, will you now have a nap?

Anna: Yes.

Pause. Long Pause as he slow walks/shuffles to sit on his bed.

Anna: Sangeeta, so all I achieved was to make you miserable.

Yes dad. You did.

And I know you are going to do it again....

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(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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