Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease

5 Things I Do to Keep my Parent with Dementia Happy

BY BELINDA SEET

14 July 2020  |   5 min read

My mother, whom I love dearly and who has been protecting and supporting me throughout my life, has now become my child.

During this Circuit Breaker, I have seen my mother regress into a demanding child, someone who needs constant attention. Although having my sister and my helper as co-caregivers help greatly, she tends to look for me most of the time as I have been her constant companion and caregiver since the beginning of her diagnosis, so I guess it’s only natural that she always asks for me when she notices my absence.

I think her worry is that I have returned to work in China, which I did before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also a nagging worry for me as I would be required to travel occasionally for training purposes once the situation improves. Currently, I am trying to devise plans to help her cope with the Circuit Breaker measures as well as strategies to help her manage when I return to work.

Understanding the conditions and moods of persons living with dementia is important for caregivers. To empathize and not feel the stress of caring for a patient living with dementia, is key. Both my sister and I take this opportunity to plan activities that all of us enjoy participating with Mum at home.

Here are five things I do to keep my mother happy:

1. Playing on her iPad

My mother loves playing games on her iPad. When we feel her frustration at not being able to leave the confines of the house, we’ll suggest using the iPad and she would whip it out and play on it. My sister and I look out for new games that are suitable and interesting for her. Currently, she loves the colouring app, although her favourite games are still shooting Bubbles and solving the puzzles on Buttons and Scissors. These apps help to maintain her cognitive functioning when my sister and I are both busy on our computers, working on our various work-from-home projects.

2. Exercising with our mother

Before the Circuit Breaker measures, my sister and I would take my mother for walks in the park. However, for her safety, we have stopped. Instead, my sister has downloaded exercise videos that the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA) has developed and I have also downloaded some interesting exercises for seniors from YouTube that I know she would enjoy. We would play these on a laptop and workout together with her in our spacious living and dining area. This maintains both her physical and emotional self.

3. Cooking Adventures with me

Mum used to be a very good cook. She would cook for large parties that we used to hold when I was growing up. She still helps me cook sometimes, recently, she has also been helping me develop some adaptations of old favourites, like clay pot rice which we have turned into rice patties. She enjoys these creative forays as they provide her with opportunities to decide on ingredients she would like to add and how she can cook them. The dishes are usually successful hence developing her self-esteem and her self-worth.

4. Playing Games

As a young child, I remember my mother devising board, ball and card games to entertain us at night when we were bored. Now, besides watching TV with her, we also play games like mahjong, gin rummy, go fish, and Jenga with her. Besides allowing her to have excitement, this is a great opportunity for fun conversations as we talk about our losses and strategies and how we plan to win the next time.

5. Eating her favourite hawker food

Sometimes, my mother craves her favourite prawn noodles or wonton noodles. Although we try to prepare these at home, sometimes we don’t achieve the same results as the ingredients may be different. At home, we usually omit “unhealthy” ingredients, and more often than not, it’s these ingredients that make the food tasty.

Hence, when my mother craves these foods, my sister and I will head to our nearest hawker centre or food court to take away the food for her. These efforts always make her feel cherished and loved.

The contributor is a caregiver of her 88-year-old mother with dementia.