Alzheimer patient opens bike shop in hospital

TAIPEI - Chang Lien-hung, an 86-year-old bicycle mechanic who suffers from Alzheimer's disease opened up a bike shop in Mackay Memorial Hospital with the help of caregivers as part of his therapy.

Chang owned a bike shop in Tamsui during the Japanese occupation. Six years ago he started to show signs of Alzheimer's disease, forgetting to receive payments from customers and not remembering that he'd just eaten after finishing a meal. His family decided to close down the shop and arranged to have him cared for by Mackay Memorial Hospital's nursing department in Tamsui.

Head nurse Lee Li, who has been caring for Chang, said that a few months ago, her son fell from his bicycle, which broke, near the hospital. After her son had received treatment at the hospital, they discovered that the broken bike had been repaired by Chang.

"Even though it took Chang about five minutes to fix the bicycle, it made us realise that maybe we can try to improve his condition by encouraging him to do what he does best, which is repairing bicycles," Lee said.

"Chang's family really supported the idea and they brought in tools and equipment as well as the business certificate from Lee's original shop which was issued in the 1970s," Lee said.

Chang opens up the shop every morning and has started to show signs of gradual improvement, the nurse explained.

"Chang's son said that before his father moved into the hospital, his father didn't recognise the tools and equipment that he'd been using for decades," Lee said. "But after his room was decorated like his old bike shop, he started to remember more of his old skills."

"When Chang's son saw that his father started remembering how to repair bicycles, he burst into tears because he'd watched his father fix bicycles for years and because it means a lot to him that his father is able to recall the skills that he'd used his entire life," Lee said.

Lee said that some of her co-workers and patients began brining in their broken bicycles for Chang to repair, creating topics of lively conversation between patients and caregivers.

Chang said that he started learning how to repair bicycles from the only bike repairer in Tamsui after he graduated from elementary school, and that he supported his family with the shop's income.

"I can fix all kind of bicycles, but people have to remind me to charge for my work," Chang said.

Positive Influence

Lee said that Chang's story has inspired a lot people, adding that some have even gone to the hospital especially to visit Chang and share their own stories with him.

"A man brought his father, who also suffers from Alzheimer's, to visit Chang, and the two ended up sharing their stories with one another, which was a good therapy session for both,"Lee said.