Good morning, Sister! 

Everyday my mom starts her day by greeting me thus.

She calls me Sister only but once a day. The rest of the day I am nobody. But without a doubt I will be Sister once more when morning comes again. It is like a game we play, every day, same time, same place. 

I tried interupting her by boldly saying “Good morning, Mom!” before she can get a word in, but she only laughs and says back, “Good morning, Sister!” 

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No more subtraction

One day, I decided to be brave and brought Mom out to lunch. It was special because Mom only heads out for medical appointments nowadays. (How did it come to this? Let me think about it and cover this in another post) 

Anyway at lunch I put her to the test – and asked if she could still count. Yes, she could! From one to ten, and then backwards form ten to one, more slowly and with slight errors. She could add single digits, but when I asked her to minus, she couldn’t do this anymore. Ten minus eight is “I don’t know, eight?” Three minus two is… “???” She just couldn’t do it. She knew it sounded easy and was just as puzzled why she couldn’t manage it. 

About 6 years ago, when I first brought Mom for screening because I thought she had early dementia, Mom could minus 7 from 100 all the way down. The tests pronounced her normal, but we knew she was already different.

She can no longer tell her own age nor understand who’s older or younger. But she loves a birthday cake and song, and happily joins in no matter whose it is.

recap review restart 

I haven’t posted for months though the thought often comes to mind. There’s enough to say but I’m not sure where to start again. So here’s a recap, which is also a summary of sorts for myself. 

Mom has dementia and has lived with me several years. She is increasingly homebound as her energy levels are falling and she walks slowly and carefully. She fills her day scanning through newspapers, watching TV and looking out. Sometimes she packs her “stuff”.

I work so I have a helper in my home who keeps Mom company, looks after her and does much of the housework. Singapore has about 300000 such foreign helpers for a population of just under 6 million – these helpers play a huge role in childcare and eldercare. Without her I wouldn’t be able to manage.

Mom is happy and smiles easily, so we’re lucky in that sense. Does she recognize me? Of course! She knows I’m a loved one who looks after her and lives in the house. But words are confused. Daughter-Sister Son-Husband – she knows which are male and which are female. No need to be 100% accurate, they’re all home characters or frequent visitors who love and care for her. She recognizes and remembers people she often sees even though she cannot name them. 

To everyone else (not so close relatives) she says, “I don’t quite remember you.” It often bothers the others so much more than it bothers her. The older folk will be dismayed and distressed. My younger cousins not so, because they can’t imagine it happening to them. I just tell them she can’t remember you because you look so different now! Mom just carries on, smiling, “I don’t remember. So who are you again? No, I don’t have any recollection.” 

Update. Touch wood.

I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote. There’s not much change in Mom’s status, which is a good thing.

She’s a Happy Camper.

She wishes me Good Morning with a huge smile.

She laughs because exercise tickles.

She sleeps when she feels like it.

TV is fun or not, it’s still watchable. 

Occasionally she spits out chewed food. 

Occasionally she thinks afternoon tea is breakfast time. At times I’m her sister.

But on the whole, it’s peace and love. Life goes on. Touch wood. 

Hazy Update

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I’ve been meaning to write, just didn’t get organised enough to do so. Some ideas don’t bear closer scrutiny, and fall by the wayside. Anyway, here’s an update of sorts.

The weather has been mostly hazy. Grey and smoky. The sun, when we do see it, is an angry red ball. There may be one clear day every ten days, when the wind shifts. By my estimate, the forest fires should be done by the end of this month, and November will be better.

Mom is calm and happy. Occasionally we catch her doing something she shouldn’t, like trying to take a bath fully clothed. But all in all, we are managing. Conversations can be amusing or fascinating, or astounding. One example:

Me, holding a banana: What’s this?
Mom: Mango!
Me: No, no! Look again, what’s this? B-a-n-a…..
Mom: Mango!
Me: I know you love mangoes, but we’re out of mangoes. Here, have this banana.

Mom catches on to emotions of those around her very well. She is still sensitive though the words don’t come so easily. She knows who she likes, and who she dislikes. She’s consistent that way.

She’s nice. Affable. Totally accepting of what is. When she says, “I don’t remember anymore”, it is a statement of fact. She smiles as she says it. But she is clear, because underlying that and unspoken is, “Don’t even try to remind me. I don’t remember, and it doesn’t matter.”

Hazy Outlook

The weather isn’t so good in Singapore. The wind brings fine ash particles from the plantation fires that are raging over in Sumatra. Days are shrouded dull grey. It rains and rains – cloud seeding is rumored – but that does nothing to the haze as the particles are just too fine. They should make it rain on the fires, not on us!

And Mom is showing more signs of confusion. I think the lack of strong daylight is interfering with her daily rhythm. Her afternoon naps are shortened; and she demands her bath and dinner several hours before they are due. The lack of sleep adds to her confusion, and for the first time we hear the confused speech associated with dementia. She’s looking for something, anxious about the “renovation”, having to go somewhere, speaking a strange dialect.

She doesn’t smile as freely. Her eyes are wary now.

I hope it’s not a lurking infection. If only the haze would clear up soon.

Geriatric Clinic

Come in, Aunty, sit over here. Now how have you been? You’re looking well.

Are there any issues? Any breathlessness? No?

Let me listen to your lungs Aunty and check your neck veins. Lungs are clear.

Now when was her last cardiologist visit? She never had one? Hmmm, alright. Is she passing motion daily? Stool soft, any straining? But nicely formed, like a banana, like this? Good, good.

Does she object to anything? Gets agitated, takes her medicine? Exercise?! She objects to EXERCISE?!

Aunty, you don’t want to exercise?! What do you do all day? Are there so many good shows on TV? I tell you what, every morning, when you get up, go to the window, and take a few deep breaths, stretch out your rib cage, ok? And in the afternoon, go for a walk ok?

You all take her down for a walk, ok? Can you do that?

Aunty, if you sit and watch TV all day, and eat and eat, and don’t exercise, your legs will get thin and over here will be very round. You will get fat and out of shape. So exercise, okay?

Haha Aunty, you laugh. You look very happy. Must go and exercise, okay?

You have any questions for me? No? Okay, see you next time.