Caption: THC nurse Ong Wee Ying feeding Mdm Kong through the feeding tube.
45-year-old Mr KC Tan first realised his mother was starting to get increasingly forgetful more than five years ago. She could not remember if she had showered or eaten. Things worsened when she suddenly developed a fear of water. The mere sensation of water would send her screaming and feeling distressed.
Today, 84-year-old Mdm Kong Swee Kum is bedbound and unable to feed or shower herself. She suffers from advanced dementia and needs care 24/7.
Mdm Kong’s children were at a loss as they tried their best to care for their mother. He subsequently gave up his job some five years ago to be a full-time caregiver to his mother. His father had passed on some 10 years ago. His sister, who lives elsewhere, also tries to help out.
“I remember how my mother used to care for the family. She was a dutiful wife and mother. She made so many sacrifices, especially when she had to care for my father when he was not well. This is the time my mother needs me so I must be there for her,” said Mr Tan.
Caring for a loved one with dementia
The greatest challenge was getting Mdm Kong to feel at ease with the sensation of water flowing on her body. Mr Tan also had a challenging time removing Mdm Kong’s diaper as she would resist all attempts to assist her. Mdm Kong would get irritated easily and suffer from mood swings. Mdm Kong had to wear a protective glove on one hand to prevent her from pulling out the feeding tube.
Despite experiencing caregiver stress, Mr Tan always tries his best to make his mother feel comfortable. “My mother is a homely person. This is where she wants to be. She does not want to be any strange place. When I feed her, I will try to talk to her and assure her,” added Mr Tan.
Getting help from TOUCH
Caption: Mdm Kong and THC’s senior care associate supervisor Ms Sherlin Chan share a special bond.
Caption: Working as a team to support the needs of frail homebound seniors.
Mdm Kong was then suffering from moderate stage of dementia. Mr Tan had tried placing Mdm Kong in a day care centre but she refused. In 2017, a medical social worker then suggested Mr Tan seek help from TOUCH Home Care (THC). Mdm Kong was then unfriendly and unresponsive towards THC’s senior care associate. However, through patience and hard work, they slowly succeeded in gaining Mdm Kong’s trust.
Mdm Kong was soon able to establish rapport with the THC team twice a week as they befriended her. She also responded well to mind stimulating activities. As they talked to her while cutting her nails and massaging her, Mdm Kong became more relaxed. She would sometimes smile as she could still recognise faces and voices. However, Mdm Kong continued to resist any attempts to shower her.
In May 2019, Mdm Kong’s condition deteriorated further when she suffered a stroke which left her completely bedbound. By then, Mdm Kong had become unresponsive and could only communicate through mumbling sounds.
As Mdm Kong’s care needs increased, Mr Tan worked closer with THC’s team to see how she could be better supported at home. Her dementia also worsened significantly. THC’s nursing support was then activated as Mdm Kong had to be on Nasogastric Tube Feeding. It was also a daunting task feeding her as she would sometimes pull out the tubes
Mdm Kong also started receiving medical support to make it easier for her chronic disease to be managed at home instead of the hospital. THC’s team persisted in their efforts. Gradually, Mdm Kong was finally persuaded to take her shower!
“I am so happy to see my mother receiving such good care from TOUCH! Her basic needs are taken care of and I don’t worry so much now. I feel so relieved to receive help from the experts,” said Mr Tan.