Memories may fade with the onset of dementia, but some bonds persist forever. Family of Wisdom Caregiver Grace Eng fondly recalls being touched by her mother’s love and fulfilling her duties as a daughter.
“Peng, when are we going to wrap ‘zong zi’?” I stopped in my tracks and looked back at her. My mother was watching television on the couch when she asked me this very question without hesitation. The week before, we were busy in the kitchen wrapping traditional rice dumplings as per our custom every year.
My mother would sit on her stool, pick leaves to wrap the rice dumplings, and wrap them up like a skilled master chef giving them the finishing touch. This is our biggest family tradition, not something that one can be easily forgotten. I was taken aback: How is it possible that she does not have the slightest recollection of it?
My mother is a woman who is extremely caring for the people around her but only shows it subtly. Her contribution and sacrifices are not made for the sake of appearances or getting recognition. Rather, her care and concern for a person can be seen through the little actions she performs daily. It was no surprise then that I was completely caught off guard when I found out about her condition.
When Dementia Knocks
In the year 2014, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and the doctor said it was one that was progressive and had no cure for. Our family was in complete disbelief upon hearing the news and it was a turbulent period for us. At every gathering, my brother and father would argue over what they thought was the next best step for her. We were so worried about her and kept planning for the future, all while neglecting the most important person – my mother herself. It was almost like saying we were on her side but not doing anything about it.
It must have been very hard for her to accept the truth. Up till now, she still insists that there is nothing wrong with her memory and her brain is working just fine. The chaos that ensued in the household following the bad news also didn’t help, and I regret not being by her side to comfort her and assure her that everything is going to be alright.
Deep down in my heart, I am fearful of the day when I would lose her; when she forgets the times and memories we had together, the day when she asks, “who are you?”. It hurts to know that this day would come, and I cannot do anything to stop it from happening. For now, all I can do is to strive to do everything I can for her.
Love That Knows No End
It has been four years and we have moved on from that difficult period. Since then, I have been accompanying my mother to weekly lessons at the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA), where she participates in various activities that can help to stimulate her brain and keep her limbs moving. Apart from that, I bring her to cycle at the park and do stretching exercise at home. She may forget that she went to the toilet five minutes ago when we are out and about, but she never forgets those she loves – at least for now.
She would never leave anyone out at the dining table and makes sure everyone is well fed. This part of her never changes and is still deeply instilled in her. We were not a very well-to-do family and my mother had to take on multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. I still remember helping her making rattan baskets and putting strings through the plastic bags. She would stay up till the wee hours in the morning to complete it so that she would be able to put food on the table. She has done an amazing job as we never had to go hungry.
To my dearest mother, thank you for constantly providing care towards us and showering us with your love. It is now my turn to take over this role and I promise to do what I can for you now and provide you with all the assistance you ever need. I apologise for being impatient with you at times; I certainly do have my flaws. I will also not deny the fact that you are the woman of my life and I love you with all my heart. Happy Mother’s Day to you!