The Trials and Tribulations of Caring for Mom by AL

The trials and Tribulations of Caring for Mom

In March 2011, my brother and I arrived at NUH to visit my mum to see how she was coping after her hip surgery. While being wheeled to the High Dependency Ward, mum looked at us and asked why they were putting her in a kampong, with attap houses? Next, she claimed to be in the market, and then she was everywhere else except in hospital. I was accused of kidnapping her, trying to make a movie out of her, cruelty, stealing her assets, etc. I was taken aback and shocked as this was not the mum I knew. Mum had been a very dynamic person, a good investor and a very capable lady.

During that period of stay in the hospital, we knew that the surgery was a success, but we were not able to fathom or understand what was happening to mum. I didn’t know whether to agree to a discharge from the hospital or to keep her there. I knew that I was not able to cope physically but she is still my dearest mother, and I had to take her home. My sister tried to take her back in the evenings, via home leave, but between 4 to 5 am, my mum managed to sneak out of the condominium and disappeared. My sister and her family were frantic with worry as they were staying on level nine. The next morning, when my mum was lucid, her grand-­‐daughter asked her why she told the security guards who found her that she was living on level two. Mum’s answer was that there are eleven levels. So 11 minus 9 equals 2. Her logic and mind were skewed indeed.

As a Christian, my strength came from God and my faith. My mum’s pastor started to come and did the grave yard shift to help my family and I cope. His invaluable help was much appreciated by my family and me.

My caregiving journey started. Mum had Dementia. I brought mum to see a geriatrician. I vividly remember sitting in front of the doctor trying to give her medical history. All I could answer was, I left home in 1980 for my studies and later had an international job and was seldom home. I only started being based in Singapore in 2010.

I felt guilty. Could I have done more for my parents?

But the reality is that all parents want their children to go out and work and be successful in their career. Yet, how do we cope with the guilt of not being there for them? Was I alone in this journey? Was this just me? Why did it seem like everyone else could cope but me? Was I unfilial?

It was during this time, that I met other caregivers, who shared their caregiving journey with me. I found that all of us had one thing in common. As caregivers, we have a certain resilience in us. We are like “punch bags”. We are able to bounce back after setbacks. Sometimes slower, at other times much faster. Because we know that when we show love and care, there is an inner peace and joy within. I also found that when we manage to spend some time to care for ourselves, we actually care better for others around us.

Caregiving is not about neglecting one’s self. We are still able to have a life. There are moments when we feel overwhelmed, but we are not alone. We do have an inclusive society and actually, there are many who want to soldier next to us. It is difficult to call out for help, but it is useful and necessary at times. We are not an island.

I am proud that I am still able to work, even though there are moments where I feel greatly burdened. But, in all honesty, my colleagues and clients do want to see me succeed. It helps that with technology, I am able to work from home when the time is needed. It sure is Work-Life-Balance to the T.

I am also glad that during this period of caregiving, many caregivers have shared their personal experiences with me. It helped me realise that I am not alone. I have picked up many priceless tips on how to cope with my own experiences and how to manage different situations. I no longer fret when my mum wants to “escape” from my house. I know how to walk to the gate and just padlock it.

I have also learnt the importance of finding activities that I enjoy, so that I can get some much needed respite. Painting gives me a thrill, because the very thought of colour brings joy to me. I realise my own psychosocial and emotional health needs to be nurtured so that I can give my best in my caregiving duties.

Is caregiving a smooth journey? My personal take is that there are many ups and downs. There are times I feel very lost, but at other times, I feel honoured that I am still able to care for my parents, who have selflessly taken care of me. They have brought me up to who I am today. They were there with me when I lost my cornea. They were there with me when I suffered a spinal injury, and had to relearn all my motor skills. What I am doing now, is nothing compared to the love and hope they have given me. It is indeed a privilege that God has given me.

I have also helped to incorporate Silver Caregivers Co-­‐operative (, because I believe that there are many more who can benefit, just as I have benefited and learnt from other caregivers and former caregivers. Caregiving is a journey that all of us will inevitably enter at some stage of our lives. The more awareness we have, the easier the caregiving journey becomes. The more support we give to other caregivers, the more meaningful our own journeys become.

But after all these years, I honestly believe that my parents, family and friends are very proud and supportive of me for bravely embarking on this fulfilling caregiving process! Bravo and kudos to all the lovely and caring caregivers of the world!

By AL, mid 50s, manages a business advisory, consultancy and management services

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