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9 Things I Learnt from a Preventing Dementia Mooc

Is it possible to prevent dementia? Is it genetic?

9 Things I Learnt from a Preventing Dementia Online Mooc

Photo by Alex Harvey 🤙🏻 on Unsplash

Last week, I started on the May 2018 Preventing Dementia MOOC by Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre.

It is aimed at answering the question on the minds of many — Can dementia be prevented? The course covers the risk factors of dementia and explores how we can prevent dementia by modifying these risk factors. There are two modules. I completed module 1 and am progressing on module two.

I decided to list down some of the things I learnt from the MOOC so far:

1.There is evidence that we can reduce our risk in preventing Dementia. Prof Carol Brayne from the University of Cambridge didn’t believe it for decades until the research proved otherwise.

2. There are three types of intervention in public health

  • Primary – removing the cause to prevent the onset of the disease
  • Secondary – Early detection of  disease & intervening to reduce its effects
  • Tertiary – Intervention to improve quality of life in presence of a disorder

3. Through a study on people who got dementia, they found 7 major risk factors – low educational attainment, physical activity, depression, midlife hypertension, diabetes, smoking and midlife obesity. Two other factors — hearing loss and isolation were added later.

4. Although there is increased risk if someone in your family has dementia, the likelihood of genetic inheritance is small. It may not seem small because dementia is so prevalent and you may see many members in your family getting dementia. But, only 1% of dementia is inherited, the causes for the rest of dementia cases is unknown. When it is inherited, it usually happens to younger individuals – those in their 40s/50s.

5. If you are at a higher risk of getting dementia (based on family genetics), there are many lifestyle choices you can take to reduce your risk of getting dementia.

6. It is important to know your risk factor so you can explore how to reduce your risks and impact your brain.

7. Some research suggest that coffee may be able to reduce your risk of getting dementia. It is a stimulant that gives you short bursts of improved concentration thus, it may be able to help those with inflammation in the brain. But, there is no consistent evidence that coffee consumption can reduce your risk.

8.Tumeric is a plant with Curcumin which is known to have anti-inflamatory properties that may help to reduce the formation of plaques in the brain (which causes dementia). Indian cuisine uses quite a bit of Tumeric. Countries like India is found to have lower incidences of dementia. There was also a study in Singapore on how Indians are less likely to get dementia.

9. What is good for your health is good for your brain. Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, depression increases the risk of dementia.

 

Should I share what I’ve learnt from the second module in another blog post?

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How do you deal with being different?

“Everyone’s different” — It’s one of those cliche things to say. 

But, you don’t realise how much it bugs you until being different inconveniences you.

Is it okay to be different? It sounds cliche but what happens if you dont ft it in. How do you deal with being different?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I remember often being told that when you meet someone with dementia, you’ve only met one person with dementia. Even the Alzheimer’s Disease Association programme for persons with dementia and their caregivers tailors its activities to each person’s individual interests. Simply because everyone is different. While one person enjoys colouring, the other person might hate it.

Looking at this from another perspective — you can’t expect children with special needs to respond in the same way as children without special needs.There has been recent talk on inequality in Singapore. If you truly accept that everyone is different, you can’t broadly use “self-reliance” as a blanket remedy for low-income Singaporeans who live in rental flats, expecting them to progress in the same way as the rest of cosmopolitan Singapore.

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to not continue being in full time employment so I can spend more time and focus on Play Huahee. It makes me different. While in some scenarios, being different is perceived as a good thing. It’s not the case in the decisions I make and it’s something I often struggle with.

I have met with quite a bit of resistance in this decision. I tendered my resignation recently, and am soon entering the semi self-employed life. The moments that led up to this were difficult. I often asked myself why couldn’t i just be happy in a full time job like everyone else. I had to deal with the disapproval of my parents who couldnt see past the holy grail of our central provident fund. It’s definitely much easier to go to work and be certain of a fixed paycheck every month.

Being different sometimes feels like a curse when it inconveniences you. It can be painful when you look around you and realise you are just, not like everyone else. But, I guess it takes time to accept that everyone is different and because of that, things dont always work out the way we want them to. For me, I’ve chosen a different path and the only way forward is to make it work.

While having to care for a loved one who is different may cause you much heartache and inconvenience, this forces you to see things differently And, learn new things about yourselves and your loved ones everyday. Maybe, one day the pain and struggle of being different can transform into something beautiful… if we take it positively.

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Five big insights on Alzheimers/Dementia

Five big insights into alzheimers/ dementia?

We started a Facebook group of caregivers, healthcare professionals and people who care about alzheimers/dementia last year.

Through this, we learn more about the community of caregivers and the condition everyday.

People in the group share various articles of what other countries are doing about dementia, videos of caregivers and persons with dementia who share their struggles and how caregivers should respond in diffferent scenarios.

Yet, we know that every person with dementia responds differently. What works for one may not work for the other.

I feel that the best way to learn about something is when you speak to someone else who’s gone through it before. Through such conversations about their struggles, learnings and victories, I get to learn so much more.

I recently asked this question in the group – “What is the biggest thing you learnt about dementia?
The responses were really insightful.  I’m sharing the insights from the individuals in our Facebook group.
Let me know if there’s more that you think I should add to this piece?
  1. Go with the flow; do not challenge him/her; show love; he/she can feel it – Amanda See Tho
  2. If you’ve met one person with dementia, you’ve met one person with dementia. – Ho Ying Ying
  3. Pretend that i did not answer/said that before, so that i can answer her like she has not ask before. – Yvonne Lim
  4. Do not reason or dispute. White lies are necessary. – Min Wang
  5. Love never dies even if dementia takes away our memories. It’s OK cause we can always create new ones, again and again. – Annie Tan

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Are you guilty?

Are you guilty?

Photo by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash

I’m writing this not to gain sympathy but because I know there are tons of people who feel a million times worse than me. Through Play HuaHee, I’ve learnt that there is power in sharing vulnerabilities. Today’s sharing is on guilt.

The guilt of not becoming a good enough mother, daughter, brother or sister is real. And, I believe we all feel it different degrees. I lived in the same room as my grandma all my life and I’ve recently moved out.

My grandma took care of me ever since I was young. As I grew up, she grew older and the roles of caring started to reverse. I wouldn’t call myself a caregiver because she is relatively independent but does need some help for a few tasks here and there.

Moving out has been a real struggle. Before I shifted, there were many occassions where my grandma said to me “After you move out, I will be alone? You won’t come back anymore?”. I assured her that I will still be coming home.

I go back home twice a week — once to stay over and once for family dinners on Sunday. But, my husband recently reminded me that I haven’t brought my grandma for a walk in a long time.  When I lived with my grandma, I used to bring her down for morning walks every saturday. It’s my family’s way of making sure she leaves the house and gets a little exercise and sunlight every week.

My husband’s reminder caused a whole lot of guilt. Saturdays in our new home means cleaning the house. I’ve been swept up in excitement over moving into our new home and along with this excitement, comes guilt that my grandma sleeps alone at night.

When I spend time working on Play HuaHee, I feel like a hypocrite sometimes cos I spend time working to create activities to engage seniors, but, I feel like I’m not engaging my grandma enough.

I think that no matter how much you do, you will never feel good enough. When you read self-help articles on dealing with guilt, many of them talk about how you should forgive yourself. But, is that something used by self-help gurus to sweep problems under the carpet?

I think everyone carries a little bit of guilt with them everywhere they go. Last week, I sat beside a colleague who was starring at her baby on her mobile phone many times during a company retreat. She said to me, “How can I go to work knowing that I’ve left this one behind?”. Often times, there  is no alternative. Aren’t you doing your best for your loved one (even if your best doesn’t feel enough)?

For me, I feel that the best to make out of guilt is not to brush it away or wallow in it negatively, but to hope that it propels you to love with a bigger heart.

How do you deal with guilt?

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The horrifying effect of sugar on dementia

Sugar speeds up dementia. My grandma's experience with sugar and the effect on her memory and moods.

My family had the most shocking discovery about sugar recently.

During the Christmas holiday, I brought my grandma down for a walk and to reward her for exercising.. i gave her some Garrett popcorn that I got for Christmas. We don’t really have much sweets at home so this was a treat for her.

I thought that it was just a once off treat and that was the end of it. The next day, I realised that the whole bag of popcorn had gone missing and my grandma ate all of it.

 

The Immediate Effect of Sugar on the Brain

After the bag of popcorn, my grandma started acting up. She showed serious signs of short term memory loss such as forgetting that she called my grandaunt just an hour ago. She also started to get angry and suspicious over items that got missing. She misplaces her belongings sometimes, and gets upset over it.

There has been suspicions of the similarities between dementia and diabetes for some  time.

According to Dr Clare Walton at the Alzheimer’s Society, research suggests that as changes in the pathways that transport and use glucose occur, Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

 

Keeping the Situation under Control

My grandma is not diagnosed with dementia. We noticed early warning signs last year (Christmas period too) and my mother started her on natural remedies and early intervention. We didn’t want to get her diagnosed because the diagnosis did not help my grandfather who had dementia. Medication suppressed his aggression but the side effect was that it caused us to lose him completely.

We’ve seen significant improvements in my grandma ever since we made a committed effort to fight dementia. Her memory is much better and she is no longer aggressive or suspicious.

So, it was quite disturbing for us to suddenly see a drastic change in her. It happened almost immediately after the sugar incident.

 

Identifying the Cause

We only suspected that sugar was the culprit after realising that it was the ONLY change in her routine.

It then occurred to us that it could be the popcorn she ate. We went online to research and came across articles on how sugar may speed up dementia. We also read that researchers suspect dementia may be correlated with diabetes.

We can’t be sure that sugar is 100% responsible.

But, it was really the only change in her diet/routine.

It was a wake-up call for us because we saw the effect immediately. It made me question the kinds of food that we put in our bodies.

The Journal of the American Heart Association  claims that drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank these beverages less than once a week.

 

How’s my grandma now?

The sugar effect wore off after two days. Thankfully.. So, she’s back to normal now. But, we constantly need to watch her for changes in her behaviour and finding ways to engage her so that she continues to lead an active and social life.

 

What are we going to about this lesson?

1.Tell the world about the horrors of sugar

I shared in our group of caregivers about this episode and I believe it struck a chord in some of them. One mentioned that their loved ones really love sugar. I think it’s no surprise as we’ve all familiar with the term, Sugar Addiction . The more sugar you consume, the more you crave.

2. Hide the sugar from my grandma

This is quite easy because we don’t have much sugar lying around. My mother is somewhat of a health freak.

3. Cut sugar for the year

It’s almost impossible to cut sugar out completely & it’s unlikely to be healthy to do so. Seeing that fruits which contain sugar also give us great amounts of vitamins.

But, i will try to make small sustainable changes to my lifestyle. Cutting sugar in the form of sweets, chocolates, biscuits, drinks and also, carbohydrates such as bread, rice and noodles.

So, I guess I’m singing Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee’s tune now.  Haha

 

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Are you interested in the simple interventions that we tried out to improve my grandma’s situation? I work on creating games for caregivers to better engage loved ones with dementia. Download FREE activities for seniors here: http://bit.ly/2jzgy5V

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The magic that children bring

 

 

 

In some other parts of the world, there seems to be integration between children and elderly where various facilities bring these groups together.

There seems to be a benefit that children have on elderly and positive outcomes when the two groups come together to learn various things or embark on different activities together. Here’s one such example.

In Singapore, the government seems to be slowly warming up to the idea as there has been talk about having common areas where children and elderly can come together.

MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling said that simple things such as building a children’s playground and senior citizens’ fitness corner next to each other can be effective.

On Saturday, I saw for myself the joy that children can bring to elderly. Our friend brought together seven children dressed as little santas and elves to bring Christmas cheer to elderly at Bright Hill Ever Green Home.

We visit the elderly at Bright Hill Ever Green Home’s dementia ward from time to time and, I have never seen them smile wider than on Saturday. They were so thrilled to see the children.

People living with dementia sometimes enjoy having dolls. One of the elderly who was holding onto a doll gave it up as he was so excited to see my friend’s baby.

Through engaging with elderly, children get to discover differences in people and learn how to care for others. I noticed that the children were apprehensive at first. But, they slowly warmed up to elderly.

Bringing children and elderly together may seem like having the best of both worlds but it may not exactly be the case. Our friend was very kind in letting the elderly engage and play with her baby but I’m certain that not all will be so open to such forms of engagement in Singapore.

Especially with dementia, parents may be concerned that elderly can get violent with children. I’m not exactly sure about how the rules of engagement should be. But, it was really a joy to watch both groups interact.

 

 Seven children came down to bring Christmas cheer to elderly at Bright Hill Ever Green Home. They were dressed as little Santas and elves and they sang songs to elderly. The elderly were thrilled to see children. They brought joy.
Seven children came down to bring Christmas cheer to elderly at Bright Hill Ever Green Home. They were dressed as little Santas and elves and they sang songs to elderly. The elderly were thrilled to see children. They brought joy to them.
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Simplicity works best

Sometimes, we have fancy, grand ideas of how we want things to work.

When it come to providing long term care to our loved ones, orchestrating grand plans is something that is difficult to commit to in the long haul.  Small and simple acts of love are perhaps, the ones that can last a lifetime.  These can be in the form of bringing them out for breakfast, going out for weekly walks or simply, talking to them about anything under the sun.

I read somewhere that your loved ones may not remember the things you did for them. But, they are likely to remember how you made them feel. So, how do you make them feel everyday? Not just on a special occasion.

I’m working on my next card game and I had big ideas on how to make it unique. But, after experimenting with my grandma, I realised it’s not about what i want for the card game but, really about the experience for the intended user.

And, my complicated card game didn’t work well with my grandma. Hua Hee is intended to be a simple card game for persons with dementia. Thus, it’s game mechanics are simple too. Just like how Hua Hee Match and Hua Hee Snap both have one simple game play that can’t go wrong.

A fan of our simple game is ITE College Central. A group of big-hearted ITE students engage the elderly every Friday. Hua Hee is one of the games they play. The reactions of these elderly really make our day.

A simple game may not seem like much. But, I’m very sure that this committed effort is something that elderly look forward to every Friday.

May we continue to find joy in the simple things. Whether it is a nice cup of coffee, a comfortable stroll in the park or yummy food on the table, it could provide great comfort if we look at things a little differently 🙂

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Hua Hee x Montfort Care: Goodlife!’s 16th Anniversary Celebration

Roughly a week and more ago, we had the honour of being invited to be part of Goodlife!’s 16th Anniversary Celebration hosted by Montfort Care.

So what did we do there, you may ask?

Watch this heartwarming video:

Seeing both aunties happily enjoying our Hua Hee Match card game was the highlight of Day 1 at Blk 72 Marine Drive.

One lady even came up to Kelvin and told him that among the different games available on the game booths during that day, Hua Hee Match was the toughest simply because it requires players to really put their memory and focus to test.

(Well, this naturally put a smile on our faces because we believe then that Hua Hee Match has met its purpose!)

Below are more pictures for your view pleasure:







All these purposeful activities filled with fun and laughter was just a start because on Day 2, at Blk 15A Marine Terrace (this time with a bigger crowd), we were pleasantly surprised by Uncle Ng.

Recognising us from afar, he came by the booth, said hello and showed us a copy of a Lianhe Zhaobao feature of Hua Hee that he’s been keeping with him all this while.

The value he saw in our cause really touched us and it is people like him who fuels our passion to come up with better initiatives and games in the fight against Dementia.

As Singapore’s economy continue to blossom, we must also not neglect the fact that our aging population is rising rapidly the number of citizens aged 65 and above is expected to increase to 900,000 by 2030; and even though we are grateful that our government has responded by helping senior citizens age well and live more fulfilling lives through its own initiatives, we younger citizens must play our part too.

To that, we thank Monfort Care for doing so and are grateful for their hospitality during these 2 days where we were given the opportunity to be part of a bigger cause with far-reaching impact on generations to come.

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Learning from my grandma’s fall

My grandma had a fall yesterday. Thankfully, she didnt get any injuries. It happened before.

The previous time, it happened in the middle of the night.. and it was very traumatic as she couldnt get up and we really struggled to help her.

This time, she managed to get up all on her own! We were so happy when she got up.

When i found her on the floor, she was abit exasperated because she struggled to get up. I sat down with her, made sure she wasnt in pain. I turned on the fan, told her to relax.

We then watched this video and learned how to get up from the floor. She used a sturdy chair to support her & got up!

During the process, I learnt the importance of keeping calm.

We tend to get all anxious when something happens. The ones we care for can easily read our emotions and immediately feed on it.

Getting too anxious will tire them out easily which may affect their ability to get up.

I understand that in this situation, we are incredibly blessed because she did not have any injuries.

Thank God that she’s totally fine now