Bringing people with Alzheimer's disease in Singapore together through dance
Belinda: “When people hear ‘dementia’, ‘Alzheimer's’, everyone freaks out, and they always feel, ‘ah oh no, oh no’.”
When it comes to dementia and dealing with Alzheimer parent, people treat it like a grim affair — as though it is the end of the world. Except that it isn’t. Yes, it is no doubt painful to watch our loved one forgetting and living each day as if yesterday never happened. And our hearts ache. But give it some time. You can still do many things with your loved ones, share memories together and carry on with life.
Take that from Singaporean Belinda Seet whose mother, Katherine, was diagnosed in 2011, with Alzheimer’s Disease, a type of dementia.
According to Belinda who told OurBetterWorld, she cried a lot in the beginning.
“You know on TV and everywhere, you always see it’s like this person losing themself, this person not remembering,” says Belinda.
But she’s been through a similar situation before when her late father had cancer. Aware that she had managed to pull through to care for him, she picked herself up.
“Once I calmed down, I decided there and then that I want to make my life with my mom as happy as possible. I want to make as many memories as possible.”
Belinda even devised activities to hold her mother’s interest, which was advised by the doctor to keep her mother’s brain engaged.
“I know that my mum loves knitting, so I come up with little plans, and then when I feel that she’s already sort of used to a certain pattern, I change the pattern. And that helps her.”
She also goes on holiday with Katherine and “makes a point of bringing her along when she meets friends.
Sometimes, Katherine objects to going out with Belinda. “But I’ll forget again tomorrow. I won’t remember. I go back, I won’t remember,” she always tells Belinda.
And Belinda will reply “It’s ok, because tomorrow is a new day.”
They have Memories Cafe to thank for giving and exposing them and other people with Alzheimer’s to a close-knit community.
Memories Cafe is an initiative by the Singapore’s Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA) where Belinda volunteers. This weekly programme sees persons with dementia and their caregivers take part in activities to engage them cognitively, such as singing, drumming, as well as dance and movement.
Besides, according to Ruth Wong, programme executive at the ADA, the physical needs are being taken care of most of the time. But not the social, emotional needs.
Belinda and Katherine have been attending Memories Cafe sessions for about two years now.
Having many other caregivers around, there is a support network where they “all sort of know each other”, “talk to each other”, “ask each other for information”, and “help each other,” says Belinda. “It’s like a family.
At the same time those with dementia, when “they see other people like [them], they don’t lose hope”.
Initially, “when people hear ‘dementia’, ‘Alzheimer’s’, everyone freaks out, and they always feel, ‘ah oh no, oh no’,” says Belinda.
But those who chance upon Memories Cafe in action, their perspectives change. “You know, it is not so bad after all, there are things to look forward to. Even if you have dementia, it’s all right,” says Belinda.
Watch the touching video below for more insight into the initiative:
Although there is currently no cure for dementia when dealing with Alzheimer parent, but thankfully, there is medication for Alzheimer’s that can temporarily ease symptoms and for some, slow down the disease’s progress.
Besides, there’s a whole lot of memories you can make while dealing with Alzheimer parent and it could add value to both of your lives.
Here are some things you can consider:
- Help keep their brains engaged — perhaps the both of you could revisit a fond memory
- Look at photo albums of past memories
- Engage them in various activities (exercise is great and it promotes more bonding time with caregivers)
- Play music, read them stories, or even engage in some gardening activities together.
- Be concerned about them but don’t limit them to doing things — they are already fearful deep down. Don’t be overly afraid that they may hurt themselves. Allow them to face it and the both of you can face it together.
- Just being in the mere presence of each other, spending some time laughing and being silly.
- Establish a routine that can make the day more predictable for you while helping your parent become more familiar with the proper way to go about things (take notice of the time of the day when they seem more agreeable and work around it)
- Use technology! We’re already using them so why not use it to our advantage? If you are away, you can make use of home security cameras that can be linked through our phones by just using an app.
- Have them tell you stories about the past and write them down
- Work on puzzles together
There are many associations like The Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA), a voluntary welfare organisation that provides Alzheimer’s Disease support in Singapore. They are there for you to reach out to, anytime.
Their services include providing daycare for people with dementia, counselling, support groups, information and referral, public education talks, and conducting training and workshops for caregivers.
Also, there are local communities like Project We Forgot that encourages, embraces and advocates for younger people with dementia. If you would like to submit a pledge message or know how you can contribute as a young caregiver to support the movement, please visit their website here.
Locations: Many locations, please scroll to the Directory section below here.
Dementia Helpline: 6377 0700
To support them in your ways, please reach them at [email protected]
Join the network and start getting involved by clicking here!