Of all the monsters that we have to face, perhaps the most fearful are those in your own head. And doubly so when they reside in the head of your loved ones. This article is contributed by Christel Goh, who had to fight Dementia at home – and how she is helping others win the fight as well.
A Reversal of Roles hurts
Watching your loved ones age is a painful thing, you see them lose the ability to do the things that they once could do.
Growing up, my grandma was the one who took care of me. When I was younger, she held me by the hand and brought me to school. I remember bawling when she went on holidays, leaving me at home. She was the kind of grandma who would buy the expensive ice cream for me just because I pointed at it. As far as I can remember, she has always been a pillar of support I could count on.
But the hands that used to lift me up have now become the ones that need support. Today, things are different. As I grow up, my grandma grows old and our roles have changed. At 80, my grandma needs to be accompanied when she leaves the house. My family now brings her out for walks on a wheelchair, so that she gets to see the sunlight and interact with the neighbours.
As she ages, my family learns that we need to be more understanding towards her needs and to spend time with her to make sure that she feels loved. Whether it is engaging in conversation, playing games with her or bringing her out, my family takes turns to spend time with her.
Caring for the elderly is anything but easy
Caring for an elderly means telling them about your day – multiple times. It means helping them find their belongings that they somehow misplace and insist have been stolen. It means being patient when they get suspicious or angry.
It means being distraught when they fall in the bathroom. It also means understanding the inconveniences that come along when ageing impact bowel movements.
Holding a conversation becomes increasingly difficult especially if they refuse to put on their hearing aids. After a long day, it gets really tiring to have to strain your voice so your elderly loved ones can hear you.
Dementia just makes it worse
All this heightens when that elderly person gets Dementia.
What is Dementia? It is the general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to impact daily life. Think memory loss, impaired judgement, and inability to focus – just a few of the notable symptoms.
Also, Dementia is a big problem worldwide. One in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore have dementia. By 2030, the number of people with Dementia in Singapore will double. And as with any illness, Dementia does not only affects the ones afflicted, it affects the entire family.
My grandfather had Dementia and it took a toll on my mother and uncle. As my grandfather’s condition worsened, my mother said that he is no longer the same person that he used to be. He forgot who his family members were and sometimes, he forgot who he was.
Talk about having a stranger in your own home.
My grandfather has since passed away. We then noticed a change in my grandma. She started to forget certain things and she got slightly aggressive. This was quite a worrying sign for my family. We did not want my grandma to get diagnosed with Dementia. So, we started finding ways to engage her at home. One day, I brought home a colouring book and she hasn’t stopped colouring ever since. My mum constantly searches for exercises online and memory-boosting foods.
When we went through this experience, I felt that there must be many others in Singapore, just like my family, who are at a loss when our elderly loved ones get diagnosed with dementia. While there is increasingly more being said to create awareness for the mental illness, there is not much on how we can slow down the progression?
Awareness is not nearly as effective as positive action
According to the National Institutes of Health in the United States, brain-training exercises slows down dementia between 33 to 48%. (Breakthrough study here)
This led me to create Hua Hee (the hokkien term for happy), a card game of vibrantly-coloured unique to Singapore items that is designed to help fight dementia in Singapore. I wanted to create something that people could easily use to help their elderly loved ones with their memory.
I have tested Hua Hee with my grandma and other elderly, and the response has been positive. Hua Hee is now available on Indiegogo until 8 July 2017: http://bit.ly/2r4e2oU
After all the activities, my grandma is now a happier person and we’ve seen a significant improvement in her memory. I believe it’s possible to slow down the progression of Dementia and it requires a committed effort by every member of the family.
Bringing Generations Together
When I play the Hua Hee card game with my grandma, she would recognize the food and heritage items on the cards. She would start telling me about how my great grandmother made Ang Ku Kueh with Ang Ku Kueh moulds at home when she was growing up.
I also play the card game with elderly at old folks homes and while there may be some communication barriers, elderly are able to recognize the items on the cards and respond positively. I hope that parents can also use this card game to encourage their children to spend more time with their grandparents. The unique food and heritage items in Singapore connect us to the older generation as it opens them up to share their stories.
I hope to encourage more people to be mindful of how Dementia can creep into the home. Some early warning signs of Dementia include a change in behaviour, short-term memory changes, paranoia and hallucination.
There are many things that we can do to engage elderly at home and I hope to explore more of these ways. Hua Hee is not a silver bullet to Dementia but certainly is a good start.
Christel’s passion and commitment to fighting Dementia truly is inspiring.
Does Life Insurance cover Dementia? Yes, it does, under Life Insurance Association’s list of Critical illness as Severe Dementia. We show an excerpt of the definition here:
… significant reduction in mental and social functioning requiring the continuous supervision of the life assured. This diagnosis must be supported by the clinical confirmation of an appropriate consultant…
While this coverage will help, why not take active steps to fight Dementia? You know what they say about prevention and cure.
www.ClearlySurely.com is proud to support the fight against Dementia. We hope that you will too.
www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.