Seeing dementia through a teenager’s eyes
A 16-year-old shares his perspective about this disorder from his experience volunteering at elderly daycare centres.
BY: Skylar Seow
This is a script of a 16-year-old when he was asked by his school principal at Fairfield Methodist Secondary School to share his volunteering experience in elderly daycare centres during a school assembly in April (the script was provided by his mother):
Good morning to Ms Chen, Mr Lim, Mr Alan Lim, teachers and fellow students. Let me begin my sharing with this question: Have you ever met an elderly who tends to be very difficult, or another who always forgets things every now and then? This elderly could be one of our family members and we will start wondering, “Why is my grandma or grandpa so stubborn or forgetful?” It may be a reason to fret, for they might have something we know as dementia. This is the topic of my sharing today – dementia and my experience working with elderly with dementia.
People with dementia suffer from symptoms such as communication problems, little attention span, impairment of reasoning and judgement, and many more. The earliest and most common symptom that dementia patients have is difficulty remembering newly learned information. For example, they might not be able to remember what they just had for lunch. So, what is the cause of this dementia? For most dementia patients, high level of proteins in and outside of our brain affect our brain cells in particular regions of our brain, making it hard for it to stay healthy and communicate with other brain cells. Till date, there is no cure for dementia, and treatment can only slow the onset of symptoms but not stop it from worsening.
Personally, I have also met people who are suffering from dementia in different daycare centres for the elderly. But, how did I ever end up there in the first place? Like most other families, our parents would always teach us the many values to live-by, like fairness, kindness and love. My family places a strong emphasis on social responsibility towards the elder generation because of what their parents have done for them when they were poor in their younger days. They worked blood and sweat just to feed their families and in those days, many families would also experience the same thing. My parents wanted me to contribute back to the elder generation because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, during my holidays, I would spend a few occasions playing their favourite songs on the piano for them during their free time. Some of the elderly were really unresponsive, but despite that, I could see a few smiling faces.
I also managed to interact with some of the elderly of the daycare centres during my trip there. There were a few who were really difficult to converse, but they were generally a very friendly bunch. Through interacting with them, I learnt that when you want to help improve someone’s life, it’s not what you do or how big an impact you make, but really, it is the heart that you bring along while you help them. Some people just visit the old folk’s home for the sake of their CIP (Community Involvement Programme) hours and things like that. However, I feel that if you think going to the old folk’s home to help the elderly isn’t really your thing, there is no point forcing yourself to help them. Instead, you can contribute to society in many other ways.
So, if you happen to have a family who might or is having dementia, what should you do? Firstly, remember to always be patient. Sometimes, it’s not their fault that they want to be difficult. Always be patient to hear them out, for they are also going through an ordeal themselves. The most important thing is to try to keep them active and occupied throughout the day, by giving them tasks to do and games to play, so as to keep their minds active which slows down the degradation of the brain. I agree that we will get frustrated, but as long as we control our frustrations, we should do fine and remember we all have a part to play to help the elder generation who have done so much to build Singapore to where it is today.
It is important to take care and be responsible for the generation that once took care of us, and that we cannot just neglect them and leave them in the lurch but in fact, contribute back to them. It doesn’t matter how we do it, but in fact what kind of heart that we carry along. Remember, it’s about helping people in the way we want to and not force it upon ourselves.
Thank you and have a nice day.
Skylar Seow is a Secondary 4 student who loves to cook, and play the piano, keyboard, drums and guitar. He enjoys different types of music and also writes poems.