Reciprocating his father's love
Once a wayward teenager, Richard Ashworth, 67, was glad to be given a second chance when his foster father John Ashworth took him in at the age of 21. He showed Richard everyone can transform with love and patience, taught him the values and meanings of life, helped him regain his self-confidence which later guided him in his career and his pursuit on his interests – sculpting and deejaying.
Richard knew he could not be who he is without John who is now 88. John was diagnosed with colon cancer more than 20 years ago, Richard knew this was his chance to repay John’s kindness. He stopped working and became John’s full-time caregiver. They relied on his savings and John’s pension for subsistence. Later, John was diagnosed with dementia. Richard had to hire extra help to care for him but his dedication continues.
Caring for a person living with dementia is challenging. There are good days and bad. There were dark days when Richard toyed with the thought of ending it all for both of them, but when he looked at John, he was reminded of his heart of gold.
“There was once when he hit me and my teeth fell off. My mouth was filled with blood. I was angry. But I know that he does not know what he was doing. It was his dementia causing him to behave like that. So, I forgave him.”
Days when John is calm and can communicate is a reward for Richard. “Actually, if we know him well enough and is able to satisfy his needs in time, it is actually manageable. Simple gesture like stroking his face helps calm him down. Touch is a very powerful communication tool.”
Therefore, Richard deems sharing John’s behavioural trigger points with the healthcare staff as a paramount preparation on every hospitalisation, which happens often. To Richard, this should be the “family-centred care” that needs to be in place – families need to share the caregiving responsibility even if their loved ones are in the hospital. “With mutual collaborations, caregiving can be easier for everyone,” he said.
John was recently admitted for palliative care in St Luke’s Hospital. “When the nurses speak to him and call him Uncle John, treating him with patience and endearment, I know that they are not doing a job, but they really do care for their patients like their own family. I know my father is in good hands and feels less burdened even if I cannot be by his bedside all day due to COVID-19 regulations.”
Just a week before Christmas, John was discharged, in time to celebrate the festivities at home. “We hope that we can spend many more Christmas together,” said Richard.