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Consistency means running for the long haul

I grew up wanting things fast. But, i've learnt that consistency means running for the long haul. Pick yourself up if you fall.

Photo by Alex wong on Unsplash

I grew up wanting things fast. In an efficient city-state like Singapore, everything comes to you with a click of a button. Words like “persistence” and “consistency” seemed like text book stuff that I could never really relate to.

But, seeing my grandma gain strength in her legs reminds me why consistency needs to be celebrated.

In the book Originals: How Non conformists change the world, studies showed that geniuses like Thomas Edison and Einstein had stellar work not because they were once of geniuses but because they had a huge body of work, this resulted in there being a higher probability of  success.

So, it’s about trying and trying again until something works out.

Consistency builds muscle

This is a story of my grandma’s strength journey where she gained strength in her legs. My grandma is 81 this year.

The past year, there had been a couple of instances where my grandma fell and had trouble getting up. I shared about how we learned to help her get up by watching youtube tutorials previously. We thank God that she wasn’t hurt in those falls.

But, those falls sent a warning that we needed to do much more. She currently uses a walking frame to move around the house. And, much of her strength is in her upper body. She uses her arms to support her with the frame as she moves around. But, her gait isn’t steady.

So, my mum did alot of research and found chair exercises that seniors can do to improve strength and stability in her legs.  A friend in our Facebook group suggested that we raise this when my grandma goes for her regular check-up. We went to a phsyiotherapist and they also directed us to those exercises.

When she first started, she struggled to push herself off the chair. But, now she can stand up from the chair, without the support of her arms. And, she can do this eight times in a row!

This wasn’t achieved in a day. It was through consistent practice over many months. It really shows me that we can do anything we put our minds to.

She progressed from pushing herself off the chair once to pushing herself off the chair multiple times. We encouraged her to do the exercises almost everyday (though it doesnt always happen).

My mum then thought her to get out of the chair without the support of her arms. And, then she progressed to doing that multiple times.

Important to give yourself a break

My grandma requires quite a lot of nagging before she exercises. She’s quite resistant to this. So, I usually insist that she exercises even though she says no.

But, I’ve learnt that it’s important to read her expressions when she’s incredibly reluctant or tired and just give her a break.

After all, we don’t want her to feel tortured in her golden years.

This is something that I try to do with Play Huahee so that I don’t feel emotionally drained too. It’s incredibly disappointing when you don’t see success even after giving a 100%. And, you would naturally fall into a downward spiral.

But, I’ve learnt that this journey of mine is a marathon. Consistency means running for the long haul and not sprinting. You need multiple breaks. And, you need to give yourself a break.

Maybe, I’m speaking to myself as I write this.

Pick yourself up if you fall. And, we try again the next day.

You should never run alone

I say “we try again the next day” because it’s incredibly difficult to embark on a journey of consistency alone. You need the encouragement of those around you.

If my grandma didnt have our encouragement (and nagging), it would probably be a very different story.


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Good for the Brain: 17 insights from Preventing Dementia Mooc

What is good for the brain? 17 quick lessons from the Preventing Dementia Mooc. Aerobics, strength training and even alcohol!

Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

I blogged last week on the 9 Things I learnt from the Preventing Dementia Mooc where I took on the first module. Today’s post is on the second module which essentially covers what’s good for the brain.

The second module goes abit more indepth into the various prevention measures such as exercise, health foods, smoking etc.

These have been reported and discussed as being good for the brain. They are further validated in the Preventing Dementia Mooc.

After completing the module, the message that I got was one that seems to debunk the benefits of some of these health foods.

The lessons that discusses a particular health food like Coconut Oil or Gingko Biloba conclude with, “There is no conclusive evidence that it would prevent/slow down the progression of dementia.” I understand that it may take a longer time for research to produce comprehensive data.

And, it’s probably important for the professors to advise people against going crazy and swallowing Coconut oil or Gingko by the bottle.

But, Coconut oil has worked incredibly well for my grandma.

What’s good for the brain? And, what’s not?

  1. Type two diabetes is associated with a two fold increase in risk for dementia.
  2. Annually 31% of people with Type 1 Diabetes have low blood sugar episodes. Any more than 4 episodes in a year can be associated with a very high risk of cognitive impairment (slowing of the brain).
  3. Insulin resistance (an effect of Type 1 Diabetes) might be involved in the development of beta-amalyoid plaques( a cause of dementia).
  4. Effects of Type 2 diabetes on the brain can be a result of various causes – vascular disease and neuro degeneration.
  5. It is not clear whether everyone with Type 2 diabetes will get dementia.
  6. There is more evidence to show that physical activity has a positive impact on frontal lobe functions such as processing speed as compared to functions like memory. Findings are more varied in the latter.
  7. The type of activity must be vigorous enough to have increased heart beat and intense breathing to have positive effects on cognitive health.
  8. The combination of aerobic and strength training is the best for cognitive health.
  9. It is unclear if low impact exercise such as balancing, relaxation or yoga help cognitive function.
  10. Physical activity with cognitive tasks like dancing or taichi which requires you to remember steps may have additional benefits
  11. It is never too late to start exercising and see benefits even in individuals with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
  12. Smoking in older adults increase the risk of dementia by 70%.
  13. In a study on people who went through a smoking cessation programme, they found that people who gave up smoking have less cognitive decline.
  14. People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who don’t drink any alcohol at all.
  15. Excessive drinking over many years, and regular episodes of binge drinking, are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. It’s all about moderation.
  16. Gingko Biloba – Gingko may have anti inflamatory properties and increase blood flow to the brain. But, there is no consistent data that it will help persons with dementia.
  17. Midlife hypertension and midlife obesity is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimers’ disease.

These are lessons from the May 2018 Preventing Dementia MOOC by Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre. Did you do the MOOC? Let me know.

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Game Ideas: Drawing with my grandma

Sketching with my grandma. We try to engage her with this step by step sketch activity. This is her artwork.

In today’s blog post, I share about a recent activity at home — Drawing with my grandma. I guided my grandma through a Step by Step Drawing activity.

What I’ve learnt is to be less focused on the outcome but more about the process of the activity. In a more cliche phrase, happiness is the journey, and not the destination.

My family is constantly trying to find ways to engage my grandma because we feel that keeping her busy and engaging her is key to her mental health. There’s a common saying  – “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. This is why we are always on the look out for different activities to help work different parts of her brain.

My grandma currently spends most of her time at home colouring. Colouring is a great activity. It’s something that keeps her engaged, and helps her exercise hand and eye coordination. It is great also because its something that she enjoys doing.

Beyond colouring, me and my mum have been looking for different activities to engage her and exercise different parts of the brain. One day, when she was colouring, I noticed a simple Step by Step sketch exercise in her colouring book and so, I tried out the activity with her.

Step by Step Sketch Activity in my grandma's colouring book
Step by Step Drawing Activity in my grandma’s colouring book

While working on this activity, I realised that it’s quite a challenge, it requires seniors to:

1. Understand what is the objective/outcome (e.g. Drawing a cupcake)

2. Identify the differences between each drawing

3. Make a good gauge of where each drawing step starts and ends

4. Understand the textures involved in the drawing (Is it a straight or curved line? Must I draw a jagged ege? etc)

I feel that it was a great activity to practise hand eye coordination and all of these things.  If the seniors that you care for can’t draw, maybe, you can ask them to point out the differences between each drawing as an activity.

Because of this, I created a downloadable PDF of Step by Step Drawing exercises for seniors. You can guide your seniors to draw the flower, orange, mushroom, leaf and seashell. These are everyday items that we would have come into contact with.

Hopefully, these can trigger some positive memories.

I tried the activity that I created with my grandma. And, here are some pictures of the session:

My grandma tracing an object to draw a circle
My grandma tracing an object to draw a circle
My grandma following the Step by Step Sketch guide to draw the petals of a flower.
My grandma following the Step by Step Drawing guide to draw the flower.
My grandma's completed artwork using the Step by Step Sketch guide for seniors
This is her completed artwork

Lessons from drawing with my grandma

Depending on the individual’s ability, you may have to hand hold them quite abit or even help them out by guiding them to draw at the specific locations.

Be mentally prepared that your senior’s completed artwork may look very different from the original sketch (haha). It’s totally okay if they draw the lines wrongly or the proportions are all over the place. I believe the process is definitely much more valuable than the outcome.

Even if this activity doesnt work for you, you can always try something else. It’s important to note that just by attempting to try it out, you have engaged your seniors in some way or another.

So… Dont give up!

Some people have told me that seniors enjoy doing things that is in some ways connected to their past. I read of a caregiver whose mum, living with dementia, paints really beautiful rocks.  Her mother was an artist when she was younger.

I hope this inspires you to try different things with the seniors that you care for. If you know of any activities that works for your seniors, do let me know, so I can try them out with my grandma too.

If you would like to engage your senior(s) with this activity, do consider getting this downloadable PDF and using it as a simple guide.

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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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