The grandma’s girl

I’ve always been a grandma kind of girl.

For many good reasons, I must say. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

My parents hold full-time jobs in our family business. It’s a very simple equation. No work = no money to feed the mouths. My grandma was the one who brought most of us up. Without her, the household probably wouldn’t be functional.

My earliest memories of her hover in my schooling days. She would put me in a shopping trolley where I’ll sit while we go marketing for groceries. Later, I’d sit in the passenger seat of her bicycle when she would send me to kindergarten. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be able to dance too, she was the one who drove me around for my dance practices.

She was (is?) also the source for extra pocket money to purchase the prized bookshop (often, useless) stationery and later, my travels. Up till a couple of weeks ago, she was still cooking my supper and sometimes, Sunday bee hoon to bring to rehearsals.

Then, she had a stroke.

A stroke is defined as a “brain attack” where blood flow is cut off to the brain. Once oxygen flow is cut off, the brain cells begin to die. How a person is affected by a stroke depends on which part of the brain it is and how much of the brain cells are affected.

And strokes change lives.

I used to do quite a bit of healthcare communications and the information is gushing back at me very quickly. The previous caregiver and patient studies seemed a lot more realistic and are coming alive as we speak. I understand why the caregiver often can’t speak without tears welling up in their eyes because emotions engulf them.

Loss of physical mobility

Previously, she was an active senior who could get by easily and now, she is dependent on a caregiver for the daily life functions that we take for granted. Simple things such as:

  • Going to the toilet
  • Showering
  • Brushing her teeth

To someone on the outside, you’d think, it’s just going about with your daily life, needing some extra help isn’t it?

I hate to say this until you have someone who is dependent on caregiving 24/7, you probably wouldn’t understand how tiring it is. You can’t leave her alone, not even when she is sleeping because she may need to go to the toilet.

Devotion of a child

You know why your parents keep asking you to get married and have kids? Your offspring are your safeguards for old age.

It is so easy to shirk off responsibility and ship off old age to a nursing home or day care centre. Just across the causeway, you can get a two-bedder assisted living room for approx S$900 a month. I think this is probably my personal choice when it comes to me being old and immobile.

It takes the love of a devoted child. I really admire my Mum because she is not even a daughter of my (paternal) grandma, just a daughter-in-law, but she is so selfless in helping to take on the bulk of the caregiving. When it comes down to crunch time, things such as helping to shower and assisting her to the toilet, the champ is the one who steps up to the call.

Taking care of an immobile aged parent is more than just visiting for a few hours per day.

I don’t think my Mum is any different from any of us: She holds a full-time job, she is the parent to four children (and grandparent to a baby boy) yet she does her part more than anyone. She sleeps less, go out less and made way more personal sacrifices.

I stand by my point that multiple children may not be necessary: You either earn enough money to take care of yourself or you groom a child who will be able to take care of you.

Emotions

Strokes are not a leading cause of death but it is a leading cause of chronic disability.

Depression is a common sight among stroke patients. I’d be depressed too if the only thing I can do is lie/sit down and have to wait for people to serve me.

Impacts on me

This incident has been an emotional roller coaster more than anything. Also, the caregiving is tiring.

I never expected myself to be okay helping someone to bath and go toilet but when it comes to crunch time, you just have to put aside all inhibitions.

The hardest thing to come to realisation is that my grandma will probably not regain her full mobility. Even with rehab and physio, her mobility is likely going to be reduced to 2/3 of what she previously had.

That is the hardest thing to come to terms to…

That Ah Ma will never be the same again.