To Chua Joo Ee, his mother Mdm Toh Wee, 70, has been a pillar of support in his family. However, this changed when her health declined in 2011. She started exhibiting unusual behavior, claiming to see shadowy figures at night. She was constantly restless, waking up in the wee hours of the morning to busy herself in the kitchen. She would attempt to run out of the flat not knowing where she was headed. She was frustrated that no one could understand her condition. Feeling helpless, she slipped into depression.
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Joo Ee's mother was eventually diagnosed with dementia. Her behavior at night is known as the sundown syndrome which affects people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.
"Her mind doesn't seem clear. In the day, she appears to have problems with mobility and needs to use a walker for support. But at night when she hallucinates, she walks about normally" said Joo Ee.
Joo Ee kept vigil by her bed at night and didn't dare sleep for fear that she would run out of the flat and jump over the parapet. The ordeal escaped with their relatives and friends as Mdm Toh spoke lucidly when she met them, in her fleeting moments of clarity.
To add to the difficulties, Joo Ee's mother suffered a stroke while his father had kidney failure. Joo Ee was forced to quit his job to be the full-time caregiver to his parents. Over time, the mounting pressure from these heavy responsibilities caused Joo Ee to slump into depression.
Joo Ee approached the Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) for help. The ADA day care centre provided respite. His mother was engaged in activities to keep her mind active and slow down regression caused by dementia. Through ADA, he had a support network of caregivers who faced similar challenges with their spouses and parents who had dementia. Interacting with people who understood his predicament helped Joo Ee tremendously.
Today, more than 80,000 people in Singapore are diagnosed with dementia. This number is expected to exceed 100,000 by the year 2030.
Thanks to your support towards the SP Heartware Fund, families like Joo Ee's can continue receiving much needed support and improve their quality of life.
The SP Heartware Fund benefits seniors from disadvantaged backgrounds through vital services such as befriending, rehabilitation, counselling, caregiver support and community homes.
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