Month of Elderly

Caring for the Elderly

There is an old saying in Chinese, “An elderly at home is alike a treasure of the family”.
Let’s take some time to understand the ‘treasure’ around us and thank the care-takers for their hardwork, keeping these ‘treasure’ safe.

Understanding Dementia

Dementia is a common term that describes various symptoms of cognitive decline but it is not a specific disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the major causes for dementia. Other common causes including stroke or brain injury, medications, thyroid abnormalities, HIV infection, vitamin deficiencies and depression.

Possible Symptoms of Dementia

– Forgetfulness
– Difficulty completing familiar tasks E.g Using utensils
– Disorientation / losing their way in familiar streets
– Difficulty in communicating E.g Hard to express feelings in words
– Mood swings / personality change
– Difficulty in managing money and medication

“See your doctor for proper assessment. Treatment should start early aiming to preserve function. Medications are available to slow the rate of regression.” Dr John Cheng, Family Physician, Head of Primary Care at Healthway Medical Group

Self Care for Caregivers

Caring for an elderly person with mental illness or dementia can be physically and mentally demanding, which can lead to caregiver stress.

For instance, you may feel frustrated, angry, helpless, overwhelmed, alone, sad, worried, sleep too much or too little, gain or lose a lot of weight, experience lethargy and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

Recognize your limits, ask for help from family and friends, take a break and seek professional help.

Some tips to prevent or cope with Caregiver stress

– Join a support group for caregivers or find caregiving resources in your community.
– Stay in touch with your family and friends, do things you enjoy with them.
– Take care of your physical and mental health. Eg. Have time for yourself, find ways to relieve stress, and see your doctor for checkups.

Dr Seng Kok Han is currently a Consultant, Psychiatrist, at Nobel Psychological Wellness Clinic. He obtained his basic medical degree and his Master of Medicine (Psychiatry) from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He was appointed Visiting Scholar at the Duke University Medical Center and Health System, Durham, North Carolina, USA, under the Ministry of Health (MOH) HMDP Fellowship Programme in 2010.

He often led by example and received the PS21 Distinguished Star Service Award in 2011 for achieving outstanding service excellence. He had also received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Duke-NUS faculty and NHG Excellence Award in Teaching.

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