She thought her son was abandoning her

Madam Abby looks forward to social activities and games like the weekly mahjong session.

When told she would be going to a dementia day-care centre, Madam Abby was furious.

The 83-year-old accused her two children of being unfilial: "How can you abandon me in a home for the destitute?"

Her son, Mr Leslie Lung, 48, recalled: "My mum's generation tends to think of such places as homes they are sent to when their families cannot or do not want to look after them anymore.

"She was very resistant to the idea.

"Sometimes, she would refuse to wake up or change her clothes so that she would not have to go to the centre."

Other times, Madam Abby would insist on returning home during the day.

It was a stressful period for Mr Lung, a freelance creative consultant. Worse, his father was also diagnosed with dementia.

As his missionary-sister was based in Thailand, Mr Lung was left to look after his once fiercely-independent parents.

In 2006, the elderly couple started going to the dementia day-care centre.

"If I could not persuade my mother to visit the centre, I would have to stay at home to look after her.

Struggling

"I was really struggling when she was in a nasty mood," he added.

In 2007, his 82-year-old father died.

But in Madam Abby's mind, he is still very much alive. And sometimes, she would accuse her children of hiding him.

Said Mr Lung: "She gets upset all over again when I tell her that he's died."

To cope, he hired a domestic worker to look after his mother.

When The New Paper met her at the centre, Madam Abby spoke enthusiastically about her activities, including the weekly mahjong session.

"Seniors like me need to exercise our brain and mahjong helps me do so," she said.

But when asked about her husband, the sprightly octogenarian said: "He's out somewhere doing something."

Despite this, Mr Lung is thankful for the little improvements made.

"The resistance she puts up now is about 20 per cent of previous protests."

He added: "From knowing nothing about care options to finding the centre she now attends, I'm learning how to deal with her condition one day at a time."

Given his erratic income, Mr Lung is grateful that the centre waived its fees for six years. His income has since stabilised and he will be paying the S$600 bill for the first time this month.

He said: "As Singapore's population ages, more attention and resources have to be given to dementia day care centres like these, so they can help meet the needs of the seniors.

"One day, we will also be be the ones using these facilities."

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