What happens if my parents get dementia?: A step-by-step guide

PHOTO: Unsplash

I used to visit my former mathematics teacher and her mother when I was 18.

They lived on the 33rd floor in one of the HDBs in the Toa Payoh estate, where I'd go to spend time with them, and enjoy a plate of fragrant Hainanese chicken rice.

Popo (or 'grandma' in English) was what I've come to called my teacher's mother.

She is good-natured, always smiling and child-like.

Having been diagnosed with dementia a few years back, my conversations with her can be simplified into the same 4 sentences that are repeated every week:

"我很久没有看到你了" (Translated: I haven't seen you for so long!)

"你有几个弟弟妹妹?" (Translated: How many brothers and sisters do you have?)

"你的弟弟几岁?" (Translated: How old is your brother?) (She's seen my younger brother multiple times.)

"你好乖哦" (Translated: You are so obedient)

Not that I minded, but the point is: it was the first time I was exposed to handling someone with dementia on a personal level.

Dementia affects 10 per cent of Singaporeans above age 60, and half of those above 85 have it. Yet, many of us will be at a loss, should there be a time where we have to deal with caring for a loved one with dementia.

Caring for persons with dementia is difficult. To better prepare for such a situation, here's a general guide to help you navigate through dealing with dementia.

ALSO READ: WHO issues first advice on dementia: Exercise and don't smoke

TL;DR: WHAT HAPPENS IF MY PARENTS GET DEMENTIA? A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE.

PHOTO: Seedly

STEP 1: KNOW AND PREPARE FOR THE COSTS YOU MAY FACE

Dementia is a progressive disease, and a person's needs will change over time.

Here are some costs you may want to track when caring for someone with dementia:

COMMON CARE COSTS INCLUDE:

  • Ongoing medical treatment for Alzheimer's-related symptoms, diagnosis and follow-up visits
  • Treatment or medical equipment for other medical conditions
  • Safety-related expenses e.g Home Modifications
  • Prescription drugs
  • Personal care supplies
  • Adult day care services
  • In-home care services
  • Full-time residential care services

Tip: Care costs will vary depending upon where you live.

Have a family meeting to discuss how much future care might cost and to make financial plans. Consider using professional legal and financial advisors for guidance.

Services Cost
Day Care $400 and $1,500/ month (before subsidies)
Dementia Day Care General: $900-$1,700/month (before subsidy) Enhanced: $900-$1,600/month (before subsidy)
For Hospice Day Care $10-$15 per visit
Respite Care Range from $100-$150 a day

ALSO READ: Taller men may have a lower risk of dementia

STEP 2: LEARNING TO CARE FOR PERSONS WITH DEMENTIA

1. HANDLING MEMORY LOSS AND CONFUSION

When you are living with someone with dementia, it is natural to observe a progressive decline in cognitive functions.

This includes memory loss and confusion.

To help tackle this, it is good to set up certain processes in your home.

Setting up a routine that allows for continued engagement helps, occupying dementia patients with simple activities such as jigsaw puzzles, solving math questions, walking around neighbourhood etc.

By keeping their minds occupied, you can help slow down the decline in cognitive functions.

That aside, here are some simple steps suggested by Jaga-Me, that can help you cope with memory loss:

  • Provide memory triggers such as photographs to remind them of things or events
  • Write reminders for your loved ones, such as medication and meal schedules, appointments, etc.
  • Label things for them,, sot hat they can be as independent as possible.
  • Communicate simply to reduce misunderstandings.

2. LOSS OF COMMUNICATION

The loss of communication may be hard for loved ones to deal with.

As you try your best to empathise with them, you can improve communication by keeping conversations short and direct, removing distractions when talking (e.g turn of the TV), and asking simple, specific questions one at a time.

ALSO READ: How hypertension and diabetes can lead to dementia

3. WANDERING

Due to confusion, persons with dementia may wander aimlessly.

To mitigate your loved one getting lost, you can take the following precautions:

  • Join a Dementia Friendly Community via the Dementia Friends Mobile App - this provides you with the community support to help you keep a lookout on your elderly, in cases where he/she wanders.
  • Stick to a consistent routine - Create a regular day plan, signing your elderly up to a Senior Activity Centre of activities at your nearby Community Club may be useful
  • Get them to wear a tracking device - to help you locate your loved one in the event they get lost.
  • Keep records of frequented places, and points of contacts - this may with a stall owner at the market your loved one may frequent or your neighbours around the area!

When a person has dementia, you will have to consider things such as bathing and toileting, to modifying your home.

This list is definitely not exhaustive, and you can refer to more care options at this dementia care guide.

ALSO READ: Head injury boosts dementia risk: study

STEP 3: FIND APPROPRIATE (AND SUSTAINABLE) HELP AND SUPPORT

1. DEMENTIA DAY-CARE CENTRES IN SINGAPORE

Daycare centres provide care for persons with dementia during daytime working hours.

The staff of these centres are also trained to provide education and support for family members so as to help them continue to care for their persons with dementia at home.

 
Name   Address Telephone
Anglican Senior Centre (Hillview) 4 Hillview Rise #02-22 Singapore 667979 6801 0499  
Apex Harmony Lodge   10 Pasir Ris Walk (Off Pasir Ris Drive 3) Singapore 518240 6585 2265  
HOPE Dementia Daycare Centre   9 Upper Changi Road North Singapore 50770 6546 5668  
New Horizon Centre (Bukit Batok/Jurong Point, Tampines , Toa Payoh)   Blk 511 Bukit Batok Street 52 #01-211 Singapore 650511 1 Jurong West Central 2 #04-04 Jurong Point Shopping Centre Singapore 648886 Blk 362 Tampines Street 34 #01-377 Singapore 520362 Blk 157 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-1195 Singapore 310157 6565 9958 (Bukit Batok) 6790 1650 (Jurong) 6786 5373 (Tampines) 6353 8734 (Toa Payoh)  
SASCO Day Activity Centre   Blk 30 Telok Blangah Rise #01-316 Singapore 090030 6276 8713  
St Andrew’s Senior Care (Henderson)   303 Henderson Road Singapore 108925 Located within St Andrew’s Nursing Home. 6430 8049  
St Andrew’s Senior Care (JOY-Connect)   5 Beach Road Singapore 190005 6291 1861
St Andrew’s Senior Care (Queenstown)   11 Jalan Penjara Singapore 149380 Located within St Andrew’s Nursing Home. 6877 4681
St Andrew’s Senior Care (Tampines)   Our Tampines Hub 1 Tampines Walk #04-33 Singapore 529684 6240 0366  
Sunlove Dementia Day Care Centre 70 Buangkok View Singapore 534190 6387 3593  
Sunshine Welfare Action Mission (SWAMI Home) Dementia Day Care Centre 5 Sembawang Walk Singapore 757717   6257 6117  
The Salvation Army (Bedok) Multi-Service Centre for the Elderly Blk 121 Bedok North Road #01-163 Singapore 460121 6445 1630  
Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens 91 Geylang East Avenue 2 Singapore 389759 6846 0069  
Yong-En Care Centre   Blk 335A Smith Street #03-57 Chinatown Complex Singapore 051335 6225 1002  

2. HOME HELP SERVICES

Home help services basically support the elderly in their own homes through:

  • Meal Delivery
  • Laundry Service
  • Housekeeping
  • Personal Care Hygiene
  • Medical Escort Service

You can seek help and find out more about such services by contacting any of these organisations:

Name   Address   Telephone
Bethesda Care & Counselling Services Centre   300 Bedok North Ave 3 Singapore 469717 6445 1500  
Comfort Keepers (Toa Payoh / Bishan) 627 Aljunied Road #07-03 Pacific Building Singapore 38983 6282 0577  
Comfort Keepers (Bedok)   1301 Bedok North Ave 4 #04-02 Goldbell Centre Singapore 489945 6446 7361  
Comfort Keepers (Bukit Merah)   221 Henderson Road #07-18 Henderson Building Singapore 159557 6336 3376  
Dorcas Home Care Service   Blk 105 Jalan Bukit Merah #01-1912 Singapore 160105 6377 5183  
Generation Home Care Pte Ltd 1 Kim Seng Promenade #15-12 Great World City West Tower Singapore 237994 6402 6407  
Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre   15 Whampoa Drive Singapore 327725 6254 3006  
Handicaps Welfare Association (Whampoa)   210 Jurong East Street 21 #01-389 Singapore 600210 6897 4766  
Moral Home Help Service (East)   2 Chai Chee Lane Singapore 469030 6441 6280  
Moral Home Help Service (West)   301 Henderson Road Singapore 108931 6273 2239  
NTUC Health   Islandwide 6715 6715  
Sunlove (Home Help Service)   70 Buangkok View Singapore 534190 6386 9312  
SWAMI Home   5 Sembawang Walk Singapore 757717 6257 6117
Tembusu Rehab Centre – Sathya Sai Social Service   715 Jurong West Street 71 #01-47 Singapore 640715 6790 7226  
Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens   91 Geylang East Ave 2 Singapore 389759 6846 0069  
Touch Home Care   Blk 173 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-1264 Singapore 310173 6258 6797

There are other forms of help caregivers and persons with dementia can seek.

This includes Home Medical Services, Home Nursing Services and Respite Services, all of which provide different functions:

Type of Service Function
Home Medical Services Encompasses home visits by doctors to carry out medical consultation and treatment for someone who needs medical attention. The doctors also work with the other team members to look into other aspects of care needs required by the person.
Home Nursing Services Visits by nurses to provide nursing care such as wound dressings, changing of ryles tubes, monitor blood pressures and also basic caregiver training on how to care for their loved ones at home.
Respite Services Respite Service is provided for caregivers who need to take a break from their caregiving tasks.

You can find a full list of contacts for each of these services by clicking on the hyperlinks above!

ALSO READ: Long-term obesity tied to higher dementia risk in healthy older adults

CARING FOR SOMEONE WITH DEMENTIA IN SINGAPORE

Living with dementia can be a real scary, both for the patient and the caregiver.

As it is no easy task, remember to seek appropriate help when needed, and form a healthy support network to help you through this situation.

This article was first published in Seedly.