Wednesday, March 23, 2011


My mother was discharged on Monday evening 21 March. The final bill for 15 days of hospitalization, angioplasty and bipolar hemiarthoplasty came to RM45,532.90. There's still weeks if not months of follow-up medical examinations and physiotherapy, not to mention a supply of expensive pills for the rest of her life. By no means is the final bill truly the last one. (Pic: mom taking her first steps on the stairs in the physiotherapy room)

Looking after an elderly parent who's just had hip surgery can be very demanding. Many times more so when she has dementia. Whatever advice or precaution you give doesn't sink in. A lot of time and patience is needed to explain and repeat instructions given by the doctors. As soon as you have done explaining one simple instruction, it's forgotten within the next minute.

It is this dementia that complicates an otherwise smooth transition to full recovery for my mother. It is also this that wears down the caregiver, yours truly, who has to keep an eye on her almost every minute of the day. Fortunately, everyone at home helps out. My 5-year old grand-daughter watches over mom while I am in the kitchen preparing a glass of milk for her. "Make sure great grandma doesn't try to get up from her bed," I tell her. She nods her head, feeling important and proud to be a member of the homecare team.

The nights are the most stressful for me. I have to be alert for every sound or move that my mom makes. There's the constant fear that she might try and get up on her own. So I fight sleep to be on guard. My mom doesn't fully comprehend the dire consequences of a second fall, even though the doctor has repeatedly reminded her. In fact she stubbornly insists that she's never had an operation in her life, even when we show her the x-rays and medical reports.

That's the challenge of caring for my mom. And it looks like the family's in for the long haul.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the whole family to care for an elderly parent, especially one with medical problems. At least, that's the way it should be. Not only should family members contribute towards the medical expenses, but also share in the caregiving. More helping hands means less stress for the primary caregiver.

Siblings can take turns to spend time with their aged parent. It shouldn't always have to be the daughter who is not married, or who has no children, or who is widowed, to be the primary caregiver, as is the general practice. This is making presumptions that she is the best person to take care of their aged mother or father. Everyone has to make sacrifices, not just one sibling. It should not be that life goes on uninterrupted for all, except the caregiver sibling who has to make drastic adjustments to her lifestyle.

I am pointing this out because I know of many cases where the unmarried daughter is often the sibling who bears the heavy responsibility of caring for an ailing parent all on her own. It's time the other siblings woke up to the fact that it's a shared responsibility. Those who can't provide the physical caregiving, can contribute financially towards the care of their elderly parents. So, ladies, you are no less filial if you appeal to your other siblings for some assistance, financial or otherwise. Their empathy alone is not enough. (Pic: I picked this up at the National Library Singapore last month. A good read for daughters who are caregivers of their elderly parents.)

I am fortunate that my siblings are supportive. My younger sister from Batu Pahat is relieving me for the next few days so that I can attend the Asia Pacific Conference on Ageing in Singapore. I have cancelled all my scheduled activities and appointments for the coming months, except for the APCA. Hopefully I might pick up something useful that will help me to better understand my mom's dementia and provide her with the care that she needs.


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Really great article it is! You are really encourage us. I ma happy to know that your mother is really feel good.

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