“One day, my mum might not re­mem­ber my name”

Herworld (Singapore) - - FEATURE -

“‘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

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