Supporting The Caregiver

When Mdm Boon Sit Niw, 75, woke up asking for lunch in the middle of the night, her daughter Elaine Khaw, 48, feared that her mother’s Dementia might have progressed faster than imagined.

Diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia in her sixties, Mdm Boon exhibited erratic, impulsive behaviour and found it hard to make decisions. With medication, half-yearly visits to the neurologist, and under the care of a geriatrician in the last three years, her symptoms were brought under control.

In 2020, Elaine’s short visit back to her hometown Malacca turned into an extended 6-month stay when the borders were closed due to Covid. Spending this time together, Elaine observed that her mother often slept through the day and would sometimes miss her meals and medication.

Worried that her mother’s condition will decline faster if she was placed in a nursing facility, Elaine made the decision to move her to Singapore to care for her at home.

Concerned with Mdm Boon losing weight, Elaine brought her for a health check at St Luke’s Community Clinic. Feeling physically and mentally drained from juggling full-time work and caregiving, Elaine requested a written medical history of her mother for her to take a sabbatical from work.

Elaine was later connected with Senior Medical Social Worker, Anne Lee, who worked with her closely to highlight available resources and offer guidance in this challenging situation.

Understanding Elaine and Mdm Boon’s needs, Anne helped to source a Dementia daycare that was in close proximity to Elaine’s home. The daycare helps maintain the general, physical and social well-being of persons living with Dementia through therapy and also offers opportunities for socialisation. With Mdm Boon visiting the daycare twice weekly, this offered Elaine some respite from her caregiving duties to be able to focus on work.

To address the challenges that can arise from caregiving, Elaine was recommended to join the SLH Dementia Caregiver Support Group, where caregivers are empowered through psychoeducation and can also benefit from other caregivers’ sharing. After a few sessions, Elaine took home good suggestions on communication, set up routines and adjusted her home environment suitably to remove confusion for her mother.

While it hasn’t been an easy journey, Elaine doesn’t plan to give up. “She is the most important person in my life. I will remember her love even when she can no longer remember. Caregiving calls for us to lean into compassion, patience and love that we didn’t even know was possible. I’m thankful that there are resources available and that we don’t have to walk this journey alone,” said Elaine.

Mdm Boon Sit Niw and her daughter, Elaine Khaw, visiting the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay.