Monday, May 4, 2009


My mother will be 83 in October. Except for a couple of age-related problems, she is in relatively good health and physically independent. Still, a time will come when she will no longer be able to do things for herself. Would I be sufficiently equipped with the know-how to look after her? As her sole caregiver, I was delighted when I found out that the Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) and The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) would be jointly conducting a series of talks to help train caregivers of the elderly.

Particpants came from all over the country.

I immediately signed up for both the basic and the advanced programmes. Thanks to Abbott Nutrition who sponsored the event, the fee was only RM40 for each programme.

Ms Sivaneswari Pillay sharing her experiences as a caregiver during the Q & A session. The other panelists were pharmacist Pn Syahida Embi and consultant cardiologist Dr Wong Teck Wee who spoke on Medical Warning Signs.

MHAS did an excellent job of putting together a panel of medical professionals and healthcare specialists to share their expertise on topics ranging from medication and caring for patients with diabetes, stroke, or depression and chronic problems like constipation, incontinence and poor nutrition, to basic resuscitation and first aid. Participants were taught how to clean wounds, including bed sores, and the proper way to move a patient. There were talks on bone loss, memory loss and hearing loss, as well as sessions on alternative therapy and how to deal with family conflicts.

Consultant geriatrician Dr Yau Weng Keong gave tips on how to manage pain in the elderly.

Consultant physician and geriatrician, Dr Rajbans Singh, enlightened participants on the role of supplements while Ms Theresa Commadeur demonstrated the technique of tapping to relieve stress.

The organizers slotted in as many topics as time would allow. There were topics as diverse as skin and foot care, beauty and grooming for the elderly, and stress management for the caregivers to tips on how to choose a good nursing home. The President of MHAS, Assoc Prof Dr Nathan Vytialingam spoke on intimacy in the elderly and preparing for death, while organizing chairman, Ms Ranuga Devy, who is an advocate and solicitor, counselled participants on the importance of estate planning. The latter drew quite a bit of interest from the participants as it was an opportunity for them to seek free legal advice!

MHAS president and consultant occupational therapist Assoc Prof Dr Nathan (top) and Organizing Chairman Ms Ranuga Devy.

At times, it was a case of information overload as participants tried to absorb as much as they could. There was plenty that I picked up which was immediately applicable to my role as a caregiver. The four days of training definitely gave me a better understanding of my mother’s current and future needs. I am now in a better position too to prepare for my own old age.

The “Train the caregivers of the elderly” (TCE) programme moves on to Penang on 16-17 May, then back to Kuala Lumpur on 4-5 July, 8-9 August, and ends in Johor Bahru on 26-27 September. Members get a 50% discount on the fee, so it makes sense to sign up for membership. Says MHAS president, Assoc Prof Dr Nathan, “Membership is open to all Malaysians aged 18 years and above. Our mission is to promote an integrative approach to healthy ageing for all.”

For more about MHAS and the TCE programme, contact 603 2070 5600 or visit their website at

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