GEORGE TOWN - Eighty-one-year-old Siaw Ah Nya @ Siaw Leng Kiam was once fully dependent on her son, but the situation reversed about five years ago when Lim Chai Hing started to fall sick.
It robbed him of his fitness and vitality, as well as reduced his mental capacity.
From someone who could work and drive, Lim, 64, cannot even talk in full sentences now, much less take care of himself.
Both mother and son are staying at Peace and Harmony Home, a non-profit nursing home located in Jalan Thomas, Bukit Dumbar, and are taken care of by its founder, Tan Swee Ban.
When met, Siaw said that for the past 30 over years, after her husband had passed away, Lim, who worked in a shop selling China-imported goods, was the filial son who took good care of her.
"He is a good son. He didn't earn much when he was working, but he never failed to take me out for delicious meals in his old Datsun 120Y.
"But his health turned bad about five years ago. He became forgetful and made a lot of mistakes at work. He lost his job soon after," she said yesterday.
As the years went by, Siaw said her son's condition has worsened and he is no longer able to manage himself.
"Simple things such as taking a shower, putting on shoes and shirts are a challenge for him.
"He cannot even alert us when he needs to go to the toilet, which resulted in him soiling himself.
"He doesn't talk and responds slowly, but he always remembers who I am," she said.
Lim will respond to his mother with a smile when she calls him.
Siaw said her only hope now is to have a few more years of life to continue caring for Lim.
"I can't imagine how his life will be after I pass away. He is not married and not likely to. I am his only relative.
"He will be very pitiful and lonely then," she said tearfully.
Lim, who was sitting beside, also shed tears.
Siaw thanked Tan for taking them in and providing them with a place called home.
Tan, who was a volunteer at Penang Hospital, said the Medical Social Work Department referred Siaw to him in 2013 when she had surgery to remove blood clot from her head.
"I was told that she had no place to live, her husband had passed away, and she has a mentally-ill son.
"When I visited her in the hospital, I got to know the son. He always sat quietly beside his mother.
"At first, I arranged for them to stay in an old folks home in Permatang Tinggi. I promised to bring them to stay at my home after I set it up," he said.
He brought the mother and son to Peace and Harmony Home in January this year.
"Their love for each other is very touching. The mother takes very good care of her son.
"She will wipe his face after meals, cover him in blanket when he is asleep. She also becomes very anxious if he falls sick. She will insist on following us to the hospital," he said.
He said Lim had a CT scan to diagnose his problem about two weeks ago, and Siaw kept asking about the result.
"The result is not out yet. Regardless of the outcome, I will take good care of them and hope that they will be happy staying here," said Tan.