My grandmother has always been a big part of my life. She took care of me since I was born so I hold many strong memories of our time together when I was growing up.
It is really the small moments that I remember most now. I remember how I would often look forward to the simple lunches she cooked for me when I returned home from school.
I also appreciated the time we spent sitting together and watching Chinese drama serials after dinner. She did not understand mandarin, so I always found it humorous when she narrated the drama serial in Hokkien (Chinese dialect) based on her own understanding.
She was about 80 years old when we started noticing her odd behavioural changes. We weren’t very sure why it was happening and threw the reasoning largely to old-age. It was only much later that we realised that she had a small but non-fatal stroke in her brain. That was when she was diagnosed with dementia.
I was about 19 years old back then and had just started my university education.
Grandma needed constant care. When she started hearing voices in her head, which according to her, told her to look for “somebody”, we would always need to stop whatever we were doing to follow her around and help watch out for her to prevent any accidents.
Feeling helpless during those times is an understatement.
It was an arduous journey because my parents could not give up their jobs to provide full time care and I, too, could not stay at home as I was in university.
After two years of trying to provide home-based care for her, we decided to place her in a nursing home for her to receive full-time care.
It was a difficult decision but we felt that it was safer for her to be in a home, where chances of her falling would be minimised.
We visited her weekly, and her condition did improve over time. On days when she slept and ate well, she would give us a huge smile which is etched in my memory forever.
My grandma has since passed on but the experience has taught me many things.
I think it is important that caregivers know that they are not alone. It helps to talk about it and hearing of others’ stories is extremely encouraging.
I have learnt that whatever that has happened is of no fault of anyone. Don’t blame yourself and feel like you aren’t doing enough. Just do your best and provide the best care you can for your loved one. It’s ok to be a little “selfish” once in awhile. Make time for yourself – rest and get recharged.
As I look back, I have to admit that it was a heart-wrenching journey to watch her illness progress. Caring for her was also not an easy task for our family. But I have learnt to tell myself that grandma did not deliberately choose to make our lives difficult. She is just as helpless as we are. We can only give her the best care we can provide to her, the dearest grandmother that we always love.