Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Mom before she was
admitted to UMMC
The call came early on Saturday 20 June, at 7.27am to be precise. "Mom fell and fractured her left leg." Oh no, not again! The last time I received a similar call was in March 2011 when she slipped and fell at home. She broke her hip then, and had major surgery followed by months of rehabilitation. It was a traumatic experience both for her and for me as her primary caregiver. I had prayed that we would never have to go through the painful ordeal again. ("Mom Fell And Broke Her Right Hip")

Alas, with that phone call from my brother, it was deja vu all over again.

I cancelled all my appointments in Singapore for the following week, and took the earliest available flight back to Kuala Lumpur. It was straight from KLIA2 to UMMC (Universiti Malaya Medical Centre) with my luggage and all.

Before surgery - Mom's left leg all wrapped up and weighted down to keep it straight and raised. Even so, she was able to kick away the pillow and roll over on her left side. Surely that must have hurt?

The PFNA Asia (also known as PFNA II)
Mom had been rushed to emergency at UMMC, and subsequently admitted to the orthopedic ward. X-rays showed she had sustained a fracture to the femur near the hip joint. She had fallen from her bed to the floor in the nursing home. Due to her age (mom is 89), that minor fall was enough to cause a fracture. The doctors said she would require surgery, and gave me a number to contact to order (and pay in advance) a device called 'proximal femoral nail antirotation' or PFNA.

Surgery was scheduled for the afternoon of Monday 22 June. Unfortunately, just before she was wheeled into the operating theatre (OT) final tests showed her blood pressure was way too high to risk going ahead with the surgery. The doctors decided to postpone it to the morning of Wednesday 24 June.

During the intervening days, the nurses administered medicine to lower mom's BP to an acceptable level for surgery to proceed on Wednesday. When mom was wheeled out hours later from the OT, her eyes were wide open and she was alert. I noticed she wasn't on a drip. The instant she saw me, she called my name and insisted I accompany her back to the ward.

Obviously the surgery was a success. Post-surgery, however, was an entirely different story.

The two incisions where the PFNA device was inserted.

Caring for an elderly with dementia is vastly different from caring for one without. Dementia patients especially those recovering from surgery require supervision 24/7. My mom has dementia and this complicated matters tremendously. Her inability to understand and remember instructions made her most uncooperative to the point of being unintentionally rebellious. She couldn't fathom the need to have tubes, needles and bandages on her body, and was in the habit of removing them repeatedly, much to the frustration of the nurses and doctors. 

She kept demanding help to get up and use the toilet. When reminded that she had diapers on, she insisted she didn't want to soil her pants. This was what upset her most - the loss of dignity and privacy at having to rely on others to change her diapers. She would scream, curse and swear at anyone, including the nurses, who didn't give in to her demands. 

Before surgery (left) and after (right)

She couldn't recall that she had just had lunch or dinner, and demanded to be fed again. It was a challenge watching over her 24/7 to make sure she didn't try and get up, or remove the bandages/plasters/diapers. I had to resort to the services of a private nurse to relieve me on three occasions so I could get some rest. I was also lucky to have my sister-in-law come by on Saturday 27 June, so I could attend a workshop on 'Essentials of Dementia Care' organized by Alzheimer's Disease Foundation Malaysia (ADFM).

On Sunday 28 June at 4pm, Mom was discharged from UMMC. That day was also my birthday. Indeed it was the second time I was spending my birthday in hospital,  Only this time I was not the patient.

Mom with my bro Henry at her new nursing home in PJ
Right now Mom seems to have settled in nicely at this nursing home in Petaling Jaya, one of the very few that accept post-surgery admissions.

This is only the beginning of the road to recovery for Mom. She is one tough cookie. I am sure she will bounce back and be on her feet in no time.

(This post was written to share with family members and also with carers who may be going through a similar experience with their loved ones. More posts to follow...)

Thursday, June 18, 2015


I have been a frequent user of public transportation since I gave up driving in 1998. While I have to say that there have been some changes for the better over the years, there is still plenty of room for further improvement.

Thank goodness for the demise of those pink mini-buses. Who can ever forget the terror rides by wannabe Formula 1 bus-drivers? Now we have air-conditioned Rapid KL buses. Seniors get a 50% discount on bus and train fares if they have a Rabbit Warga Emas card. We are also grateful for the free feeder buses e.g. GoKL buses and PJ buses.

Free shuttle buses are such a boon to seniors in terms of savings and convenience.

Senior citizens are probably the largest group that rely on public transport to get around. Board a bus any time of the day, and you can see the passengers are mostly retirees, pensioners and the elderly.

The government wants more young working people to use public transport in order to reduce the traffic congestion on our city streets. But why are they reluctant to do so? For that matter, many of my senior friends who are used to driving themselves around are also loathe to use our buses. Free transport or half fares are not appealing enough, apparently.

Source: 'Easing traffic jams with elevated dedicated bus lanes' - The Star, 15 June, 2015

I beg to disagree with Dato Sri Idris Jala, CEO of Pemandu, the unit in the PM's department tasked with implementing the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

Introducing elevated bus lanes is not the answer. Neither is increasing the number of buses. As long as potential riders have no clue where each bus goes, they will hesitate to board a bus.

The problem lies in the lack of information regarding bus routes. Go to any LRT or bus station, I can bet you won't be able to obtain a map of the train/bus routes for your personal reference. I have been trying for the past ten years. Each time I approach the counter for a map, the stock answers I get range from 'Habis' to 'Boleh download online'. Bear in mind that most seniors are not IT-savvy, and wouldn't know how to download maps and/or print a hard copy. Make things easy, not difficult for commuters.

Not an iota of infomation about the buses serving this bus-stop.

You find yourself at a bus-stop, and you are absolutely at a loss to know which bus will take you where you want to go - all because there is no infomation at the bus-stop. Instead, you will find all other types of information from how to contact money-lenders to who to call to rent a room.

Advertisements adorn the bus-stop, but we would rather have bus info. This bus-stop is opposite the Taman Bahagia LRT station.
Contact numbers for pawn shops and all manner of stickers, but nothing on bus routes. This one is along Jalan Ampang.
The bus stop outside the iconic Twin Towers at KLCC is an embarrassment. Definitely not people-friendly - not only is there no info, but there is nowhere to sit and wait. You can only rest leaning against the iron railing.
After years of waiting, finally an electronic signboard is installed at the KLCC bus-stop that tells the arrival and departure times of buses that serve these listed areas. But is this good enough? NO! Let's say you want to go to Pasar Seni. Do any of the buses go there? Which one? Also, I have noticed that when these signboards break down, it takes ages for them to be repaired and functioning again.

All bus-stops must have an information board that is locked to prevent vandalism. The board should carry info on the routes that each bus plies like in this image below taken outside Suntec in Singapore. That way, everyone, including tourists, will know which bus to take to go where they want to go. This is what commuters want - reliable information.

And while I am at it, I have a bone to pick with the state of many of our public buses, especially Metro buses. Not only do many of them emit smoke enough to envelope you from sight, the seats are in dire need of repair and re-upholstering. I have gingerly sat on seats with the central foam missing and exposing a gaping hole. It's a wonder I didn't fall through! Such buses have seen better days eons ago, and should be taken off the road immediately before they become a hazard to commuters.

The seat on the left is broken and held together with wires to the seat on the right. I was in the seat behind. If the wire snapped, both the lady and the seat would fall on me.

SeniorsAloud has been voicing our grouses on the shortcomings of our public transport system since April 2012 in our article 'Driven up the wall by our public buses'. We have participated in working committees on the issue, met with officers from SPAD at their premises, as well as facilitated workshops on the topic.

To their credit, SPAD and Prasarana have undertaken much-needed reforms in the public transport system, foremost is the introduction of free shuttle buses to serve the people of KL and PJ. But much more needs to be done, and quickly.

At least no one would dare plaster ads over the PM's image. But where's the bus info?

How difficult is it to provide full information on bus routes at every bus-stop? And to have maps of train routes available at all LRT-monorail stations for anyone who wants a copy? I can bet ridership will increase dramatically when such info is made easily available.

I hope this blog articles reaches the attention of the relevant authorities and prompt action taken to make it a joy for the people to travel by public transport. This would bring KL a step closer to being a people-friendly city.