“One day, my mum might not remember my name”
“‘Woolly-Woolly’ - that’s a phrase we jokingly use in our family when one of us forgets a name, an appointment, or can’t find our phone or keys. For you, the frequency of these ‘woolly-woolly’ moments seemed to increase about lO years ago. You were in your early 8Os then. Since we lived together and I saw you every day, I didn’t notice the changes in you until my siblings, who live overseas, pointed them out on their regular visits home. Later, you were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
I remember once getting a call at my office in the afternoon. The distraught voice of the caregiver got my attention. Without a car, you had decided to walk to a friend’s home, just lO minutes away. But you got lost. Later, we found out that you’d walked for hours. Eventually, a lorry driver found you lying in a drain with a bruised body and bloodied face. He drove you around until you recognised our home. I realised then that being there for someone who is having more ‘woolly’ moments can be more challenging than caring for one who’s mobility-restricted.
But you have never let your illness hold you back. Even though your memory is fading, your essence remains one of joy. As a former social worker, you still insist on visiting some of the patients you cared for every Chinese New Year, and on hosting a group of volunteers you worked with many years ago. You also started piano lessons when you were 88, and then moved on to drawing and painting when you were 9O. You love music and are always ready to burst into song. One of your favourites is Que Sera, Sera.
You’re blessed with many caring relatives who visit you and take you out. We also get a lot of support from health-care organisations like the Agency for Integrated Care and the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, which have been instrumental in slowing the progression of your disease.
I moved from full-time to freelance work almost three years ago, so I could have more time with you - to take you for your various programmes, or on outings and overseas trips. I admit it does challenge my self-worth when you repeatedly (sometimes at 3O-second intervals) ask the same question, like ‘Why aren’t you at work?’ or ‘Why are you home?’. I vary my replies. Sometimes, I say ‘I’m working from home today’. Other times I say ‘I took leave today to be with you’. The latter seems to make you happiest. I have no regrets. You’re a great mum - a blessing to me, my siblings and so many more, even with the toll of the disease. While you can still remember my name, I’m glad I decided to make time for you. Each day is treasured.” - Anonymous, 55