Dealing with dementia

lead image

Online initiative, Before We Forget, brings dementia into the spotlight

SINGAPORE - Mr Jeremy Boo, 22, inspiration to start an online platform - 'Before We Forget' for others to relate how one cope with a loved one's dementia came about as a result of his struggle taking care of his sick mother. Dementia is a degeneration of brain function, and affect's the patient social and occupational activities. According to The Straits Times, Mr Boo described his feelings of frustration andguilt whilst caring for his sick mother.

It turned out that Mr Boo's mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease since 2008. It is a form of motor disease, causing the nerve cells in certain parts of the brain and spinal cord to die gradually. As these cells die, the muscles at the rest of the body will gradually weaken, as it can no longer receive signals from the brain. This also causes them to lose the abilities of eating, speaking and breathing.

Thus Mr Boo roped in his former Ngee Ann Polytechnic classmate, Mr Lee Xian Jie, 21 to launch the online initiative about dementia. The switch from Lou Gehrig's to Dementia came about he could not find other families to share their stories about it. Both Mr Boo and Mr Lee felt that dementia sufferers are portrayed negatively on television and movies most of the time.

According to the Ministry of Health, the number of people suffering from dementia will soar to about 47,000 by year 2020. As of now, there are currently about 28,000 dementia suffers.

The duo filmed footage and interviewed families willing to share their story. The exhibition kicked off featuring video clips, stories and photographs on their website - http://www.beforeweforget.org for Before We Forget Project. When the website was launched in April 2011, it attracted contributors. One of them is blogger Benjamin Lee, also known as Mr Miyagi. He shared his story about caring of a family member with dementia.

Mr Boo hopes that through this project, others will share this aspect of care-giving, and added that it is perfectly ok to feel conflicting emotions. When the project was started last April, both of them were still serving National Service. Thus, countless weekends were sacrificed as they visited homes and day-care centers to understand the amount of care provided for dementia patients.

Out of the many families whom were approached, only 2 agreed to be interviewed. The rest declined citing privacy reasons. What  originally planned to be a 5 min documentary eventually became a full-length documentary as too much footage were recorded.

The documentary will be screened on 10 September, at the Arts House and plans are being made to submit this documentary to Asian film festivals.

Both Mr Boo and Mr Lee plan to commence their undergraduate studies next year, and are currently exploring ideas for new documentary projects.

There are 3 "Before We Forget" exhibitions with the first one being held at Vivocity from now till next Thursday. The second exhibition will be held at Jurong Regional Library, starting tomorrow and ending on 30 September. The last exhibition will be held at the Arts House from 10 September to 25 September.

How did you feel, when taking care of a loved one suffering from dementia? Share your story at http://www.beforeweforget.org and read of others who shared their tale.