January 9, 2017

Caring for Dementia Elderly: Home Configuration

While I was in Europe in October, my parents came back home and found grandma on the floor, unconscious, laying beside her sewing kit. Grandma had a stroke. She was immediately sent to hospital and soon after, the effects of the brain damage as a result, she was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Other than a slurring of speech pattern, coordination skills and a weakening of her legs, her memories became confused with time, place and people.

For example, she will think that her mother, who has died over 70 years ago, is alive and well at home.

She also got confused with the number of family members at home. She strongly believes that I have an elder brother called "Song Song", whom does not exist in the first place. "Song song" is the pet name. We had to keep her updated on the number of family members by constantly showing her her family pictures

As a strong independent widow who brought up two sons on her own during the post WWII days, she strongly values her ability to overcome any problem or obstacle. The stroke and dementia struck a blow to both her dignity and sense of independence, which will come to give the family many problems in the near future.  

As a result of her condition, the family was advised to reconfigure the staying arrangement at home to prepare for a dementia patient. Our home is a double storey maisonette with all the bed rooms located on the second floor. We now have to plan to move grandma to the first floor.

The family rushed into action putting on their thinking hats on how to resolve the issue. Thinking perhaps too hard....

One of the solution suggested is to buy a new HDB flat which is elderly friendly...

Another solution is to purchase an expensive stair climber, a wheel chair with can climb stairs.

I rolled my eyes at some of the suggestion put forth.

"Why don't we just convert the living room into a bedroom?"

"Oh. It will be unsightly to the visitors!"

"Who cares about an unsightly living room! Surely our visitors will be accommodating if they know that we house a disabled elderly!"

After a series of discussion, we finally settled on re-configuring the living room into a bed room, along with a new bed, partition curtains, wardroom and TV. We also called on HDB to help to install rail bars in the toilets at a subsidized rate, thanks to the Enhancement to Active Seniors program. We paid only $70 for the whole project of outfitting 3 bathrooms.

However, when grandma came home, she insisted on configuring the living room back to it's original state.

"It's sightly for our visitors."

We tried to coax her telling her that it is for her good that she should accept this arrangement and stay in the first floor. She refuses and wants to go back to her bedroom to sleep.

My sister challenged her,"If you can prove that you can climb the stairs back to your bed room up and down, we will agree."

Grandma grabbed on to the railings and slowly climbed up, clinging on to the railings with her dear life.

She climbed up and she climbed down....

We gave up persuading her and let her have her original room back...

And we now have a huge empty bed frame occupying living room area which we have no idea what to do with it...



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