Baby Steps

Two steps forward, one step back. We do a little dance with dementia and frailty and bodily functions that disappoint. When we think we have gotten over the final hurdles and finally started on the road to better health, the road dips, and we stumble.

So at present, it seems we have taken one step back. About a week ago, Mom had an episode. A little weakness, a little confusion. A lot of consternation. Then followed a visit to a specialist, and an investigative procedure.

I came back after a short time away, and noticed the difference. A certain hesitancy, a reluctance to get up. Vague eyes. Fewer words. A drunkard’s gait.

Showers taken at unusual times, and repeated at hourly intervals. Medicines swallowed hours before they’re due.

My doctor friend encouraged vigorous and sustained rehabilitation. “Don’t give up, you must keep at it.”

So –

Let’s go for a walk, Mom.
Sit and rest awhile, Mom.
Let’s continue walking, Mom.

Raise your arms ten times. Let’s count, Mom. How many was that? Can you count louder? You must count. That’s Four. Keep counting. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. One more. Ten. That was slow, Mom. We’ll count faster tomorrow.




It rained heavily this morning.

Mom said, Good morning, it’s raining. So, no need to go, huh?

I said, Yes, it’s raining. Still must go!

We were talking about her dementia day care centre. I wonder why she thought it would be cancelled if it were raining.

Did she use to skip school when it rained?

Did she feel like staying indoors and watching the rain?

Maybe she didn’t realise it would not rain the car, and we could use an umbrella for the short walk from car to centre.

In any case, she was happy to be reassured – the rain wouldn’t stop us today.


Bollywood Veggies and the Gentle Warrior

Mom loves outings, and it is often challenging to think of safe and interesting places that all the family can enjoy. Shopping centres are busy, crowded and can be difficult to navigate. Also I think Mom gets distracted and slightly confused by all the lights and things on display.

I think a good outing should be physically do-able yet not too easy, and better still have content that trigger and stimulate Mom’s memory. A few weeks back, we had one such outing and it was fun! The fun even started on the way there as we drove down quiet narrow roads with plenty of greenery on both sides with  not a tall building in sight. Mom kept saying “I didn’t know Singapore has parts that look like this!”

Bollywood Veggies is an organic farm owned and run by Ivy Singh-Lim, the self-styled Gentle Warrior. She’s a real charming lady, I must say! Full of zest and lives life entirely her own way. Way to go! She runs a restaurant there too, and it’s called (tongue-in-cheek, of course) … Poison Ivy Bistro.

Mom had a great time strolling amongst the fruit trees and other plants. There are lots of humorous signs about too. A most enjoyable outing.


Tiny little chillies
Tiny little chillies
Bunch of bananas
Bunch of bananas
Ripening Jackfruit
Ripening Jackfruit
So pretty
So pretty
Watch out!
Watch out!
Baby papayas
Baby papayas
Go ahead, make my day!
Go ahead, make my day!
Lotus flower
Lotus flower
The lotus pond
The lotus pond
Lotus Pod
Lotus Pod
Cotton Tree
Cotton Tree


Mom remembers the war

Reminiscing is supposedly a good way to engage persons with dementia, and helps to stimulate their memories whilst feeling good about themselves. Last week I asked mom about the time I was very young, which led to my previous post. This week, I asked her instead about the time when she was very young, which was when the Japanese occupation of Malaya took place. The following is her account:

The war with Japan? No, I don’t remember it.

Oh the Japanese came, and my father gave them liquor in his shop. They sat in the shop and had the liquor there.

My father told my mother to slaughter a chicken for them. Of course, someone else, not my mother, brought the chicken out to them. So they drank liquor and had chicken.

My mother kept her chickens in a dry well outside the kitchen. The well is covered with a wire mesh to keep thieves out. People steal the chickens.

No, it didn’t smell. We threw leftovers down the well for the chickens to eat. It was a large well.

When the Japanese aircraft flew overhead, my mother would ask us children to go under the bridge. This is a stone bridge and 3 or 4 of us kids would go under it where it was dry. The adults? The adults don’t need to go under the bridge…. Maybe… they hid somewhere else.

People washed their clothes under the bridge, but my mother told us to stay away from the water. You could fall in and drown.

Later my father arranged for my brother and me to go to Kuala Lipis to go to school. We two were the ones who could study. We were supposed to stay in a photographer’s house. But the photographer went out one day and died..  of a heart attack. And then his wife died, and his son died. So my uncle came, and saw the situation, and decided to bring us to Penang. 

We went to Penang and I went to ACS girls school and my brother went to ACS boys school. Then my uncle was transferred to Butterworth and I went to the Convent school there. So for the first two years of school, I lived with my uncle, my father’s brother.

There was a vague familiarity about mom’s story- I must have heard it before. The three towns mom mentioned are on the map. Kuala Lipis is right in the middle, and as mom lived in a village nearby, it was away from the main Japanese route of invasion. The places she went to school – Georgetown in Penang, and Butterworth, are at the top left corner of the map.

I am glad for this opportunity for mom to remember, and remember accurately. Looking forward to new topics for reminiscing…

A Night of Popular Classics by BHSO

Bialak taking a bow after the Chopin piano concerto.

I had two tickets for Singapore’s premier (or only) amateur orchestra, the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, and decided to give mom a treat. I realised with some surprise that mom had never been to an orchestral music concert. In the past, she had attended the usual school recitals and later on musicals such as Mamma Mia! and The Lion King, but never a full scale orchestral concert.

It was my first time at the venue and at a BHSO concert, and I was surprised at the very comfortable venue as well as the casual and down-to-earth crowd that showed up. Concerts by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra are rather more formal.

We settled into our seats and noticed most people were holding purple programs.

Oh, I said, we missed the programs.

Mom answered, There were plenty outside, on the tables.

Somehow she had noticed and I didn’t.

The orchestra filed in 2 minutes past eight. Mom remarked, Are they all men?

The first piece by Manuel de Falla was taken a tad more slowly than I expected. The orchestra was slightly tentative as it warmed up, but I enjoyed the musicality of the slowed-down piece. It ended very quickly, and the piano was wheeled in.

The highlight of the evening was the Chopin piano concerto, and at the piano was Arkadiusz Bialak, a concert pianist of Polish origin who has since settled in Singapore. He had a beautiful touch with the concerto, even if the orchestra had some trouble figuring where to come in. The piano in the second movement was so beautiful and lyrical it brought tears to my eyes, and I heard sniffing behind me. The audience showed their appreciation by clapping between movements, and the man beside mom went tsk tsk with folded arm.

During the interval, we got our purple programs, and mom promptly put it to use – she used it to shoo away a boy who was blocking her way on the steps.

After the interval, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol was played with confidence and familiarity. The 1st violin leader was superb in his solo, relaxed and easy. I never heard a harp so clearly before – it was simply beautiful.

The Final Dance was a frenzied piece of music making, with no holds barred and it ended with a loud noise flourish. During the final applause, the conductor walked very quickly off stage and back on, and so we had the privilege of an encore! For the encore, the orchestra again played the first piece (de Falla’s El Amor Brujo); this time it was quicker and sharper, but it was no longer fresh.

At the end of the concert, I asked mom if she had enjoyed it. Oh yes, it’s very nice, she said. So will you come again? I asked. She pursed her lips and thought about it. Shook her head just very slightly, but didn’t say a word. Haha, mom, your action speaks loud and clear – it was nice, but just once is enough! I’m glad I brought you.