Elderly isolation definitely seems to be a growing problem.
Last week, there was a news report that elderly suicides was at an all-time high.
An extract from Channel NewsAsia states, “The number of elderly aged 60 and above who took their own lives peaked at 129 last year, the highest since suicide tracking started in 1991.”
The total number of suicides last year was 361. This means that out of every three suicides, one was an elderly.
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) is also encouraging seniors to call into their hotline because they see a drop in seniors calling in and they are concerned about elderly isolation.
According to the Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Study in 2012 by the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, one in five elderly persons in Singapore aged 75 and above show signs of depression.
There is also projected to be 83,000 seniors living alone by 2030.
It is clearly a big issue. This makes it more important for us to be more mindful of the seniors around us and watch for red flags.
These red flags are symptoms of suicidal tendencies to watch out for:
Making preparations for death (e.g. writing a will or giving away cherished belongings)
Sudden withdrawal from social interactions
Self-neglect in terms of low personal hygiene and a dirty living environment
Struggle with a recent life crisis (e.g. the death of a loved one or excessive medical bills.)
However, it has not been an entirely smooth sailing journey for Magdalene.
“As a working Mother with a special child, I face challenges in getting sufficient help and juggling between office work, son, choir and art classes for children with special needs. I’ve to constantly come up with new and creative songs and dance steps, charting choirs schedule and collating attendance,” said Magdalene.
She sources for funds to buy materials such as hand chimes for the performances.
She also gets sponsorship help from family and friends who believe in the project.
The Singapore Special Voices comprises a tight community of special needs children and their parents.
Magdalene’s vision is to develop stage performing talents amongst children with special needs.
She wants to provide an avenue for them to be engaged in meaningful activities.
She believes that this will help improve their social skills and allow them to build self-confidence.
She is already seeing the fruits of her labour as parents have been sharing improvements of their children’s social skills and self-confidence.
Through the choir, Magdalene’s son has also become more sociable and open in interacting with others.
Her dream is to produce albums for the choir and bring them overseas to share this visions with special needs families in different part of the world.
She hopes that the Singapore Special Voices will bring Love, Joy and Hope to the rest of the world.
Joy who is from Florida, shared about how she has been giving her mum Turmeric root. She has since seen positive results in her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.
I was quite intrigued by this because I’ve read that Turmeric is great for the mind.
In Singapore, Indians supposedly are less likely to get dementia because they take loads of Turmeric in their food.
I asked Joy if she was okay with sharing her experience and she very kindly agreed.
1. Tell us about yourself and your experience as a caregiver?
I moved in with my mom six months after my father passed away. I didn’t think that she should be living on her own for the first time in her life at 86.
I didn’t know she had dementia – she was recovering from surgery on her brain. She has a Meningioma – which is a benign tumor on the lining of the brain. It’s been removed twice (it grew back after it was removed the first time).
She managed to bounced back after the first time it got removed.
But, the second surgery seriously impacted her. She currently lives with Alzheimers’ Diease.
We’re not too sure if the tumor was the cause of it.
2.When did you start giving your mum Turmeric root? What made you start your mum on this?
I had read about it, and saw the fresh root at my Farmer’s Market, so I bought some and started giving it to her.
3.You mentioned that she seemed to be clearer, what are your observations of her after taking Turmeric?
Recently, she has been able to dress herself independently. The only help that she gets from me is laying out her clothes.
Before taking turmeric, she was not able to get the sequence of dressing herself right. She sometimes, skips underwear, or ignores the clothes that I laid out.
When left on her own, she usually would wear something like three tops and no pants.
In general, she seems sharper. However, there are still some off days.
4.How do you prepare turmeric root and how often do you give it to her?
I simmer it in a pan with a little coconut oil and Basalmic vinegar. It doesn’t taste great, but she doesn’t mind.
Sometimes, I give her a piece to chew on, sometimes I mince it and put in her food. She doesn’t object.
I usually give her a few pieces of turmeric in the day.
5. Are there other ways to prepare Turmeric?
When eaten with fat (virgin olive or coconut oil or meat drippings) as is done in India, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby partially bypassing the liver.
A recipe for this is the Tumeric Golden Paste which can be consumed as it is or mixed into rice, dishes or drinks.
Extracted from the article:
What is needed for making Turmeric Golden Paste?
1/2 cup turmeric powder (125 mls) – Use organic powder.
1 cup water (250 mls) or a bit more to get desired paste consistency
1 teaspoons ground black pepper (7.5 mls) (or even 1/2 tsp. if pepper is too irritating)
1/4 cup (70 ml) cold pressed Olive or un-refined Coconut oil – enhances the bio-availability of curcumin another seven to eight-fold
Add turmeric to water in a pan. Heat gently along with stirring. Do this till you get a thick paste, approximately 6 to 10 min. Adjust thickness by adding some water or adding a bit more turmeric.
Finally, add the pepper and oil. Keep stirring to ensure that all ingredients are mixed properly. Allow it to cool.
Bottle in clean jar with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate it for 4-5 weeks or more. (Antimicrobial Un-refined, virgin Coconut oil will help keep it from spoiling sooner). This will ensure you can make it once and use for days.
6. Are there any other natural remedies you recommend for seniors?
YES – although we haven’t tried, MCT oil is next on my list. I bought it for my son and he LOVES it.
MCT oil are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid with health benefits like improved cognitive function to better weight management.
I also shared about early intervention and how my grandma benefited from taking Coconut Oil here.
Do you want FREE activities for seniors? Leave your email address and we will send them to you.
If you are caring for a senior, you may be wondering how to keep your loved ones occupied.
You may be looking for activities, companionship, caregiving or exercise related services for your loved ones.
I’ve compiled a list of options that you can consider. This is definitely not a comprehensive list.
If you know of any services that you think I should add, please let me know!
I’ve been to AMKFSC’s Senior Activity Hub in Punggol with my grandma. It is quite a positive experience. They have a weekly schedule of activities that range from afternoon exercises, karaoke to arts and craft.
I’m not too sure if all the Senior Activity Centres are open to everyone though? According to Singapore Silver Pages, you have to meet their eligibity criteria and apply first.
There’s too many senior activity centres that it’s impossible to list them all. But, you can definitely look for one near you with the help of Google.
Some of the Senior Activity Centres that you can consider are Hovi Care and SASCO.
Extracted from their site — This space was set up by SG Enable, a government-established body that is dedicated to enabling people with disabilities. This is the first inclusive gym where people with disabilities, seniors and the able-bodied can come together to work out and participate in selected sports programmes together.
Extracted from their site — The ASPIRE55 Introduction Programme is designed to help you improve on your muscle strength and balance after 10 weeks. Over 150 older adults have graduated to date. You will experience our small group strength training programme twice a week, led by an ASPIRE55 trainer. Each week, learn new exercises that will assist you with falls prevention, improvement of balance and muscles strength.
1 Commonwealth Lane #08-34 One Commonwealth Singapore 149544
Seniors are broken into small groups based on the severity of their condition, and their various interests.
Montessori for Dementia Care also offers sessions for seniors to exercise their memory, staying creative, and purposefully active with the goal of continuing to learn and live a life of dignity.
They have an Activity Centre, providing daily 3-hour sessions with diverse activities, with group or individualised sessions. Activities like cooking, music, arts and crafts, exercise, and conversation offer a diverse and social experience.
AWWA Dementia Day Care also offers a programme that aims to help seniors in slowing down the progression of the condition.
I believe that there are many more services out there? And, I may have barely scratched the surface.
But, the objective is really to list some available services out there in case you’re looking for something.
I’ve also heard about the red tape involved in getting seniors placed in some of these programmes.
So, I guess if you’re waiting too long to hear back from one service provider, maybe you can try other services?
Let me know if I got anything wrong of if you have anything that you want to share.
We thought about what would be able to engage her or keep her occupied.
During the daytime, both my parents are at work and if we didn’t find things to engage her with, she would just stare at the tv screen or spend her time sleeping.
One day I brought home the Secret Garden colouring book. She got really intrigued by it.
She spent a long time colouring when we got her the book.
Over the next few days, she stopped staring at the TV screen. She would be colouring all day and night.
To date, she’s gone through many colouring books. We now have stacks and stacks of her coloured books.
Helping her find an activity that she enjoys and keeping her occupied has been one of the best things ever.
Some people have told me that it could be because when i was little, she would be colouring with me.
So, it could be an activity that brings back positive memories.
I’m currently trying to find other ways to engage her so she is continuously exposed to different things and is kept engaged. But,she doesnt seem to be interested in other things. I’ve tried crossword puzzles, drawing etc.
If you’re looking for activities to engage seniors, you can check my games out HERE.
Those were signs that she needed to gain strength in her legs. My mum then found some chair exercises off the internet. We got her to go to the psyiotherapist who directed us to those exercises too.
Getting up from a chair is an exercise that she is supposed to do three sessions a day (10 times at each session).
At first, she really struggled to get up and took quite a few seconds trying to get up from the chair. After doing it regularly, she has progressed quite well. She can now get up without supporting herself with her hands.
The speed at which she gets up from the chair has also increased quite a bit. This shows that she is much stronger in her legs now.
We often have to speak very loudly, slowly and repeat ourselves multiple times for my grandma to hear us.
You can imagine a setting such as dinner – everyone is in the midst of a conversation, but the senior who is hearing impaired is physically present but he or she can’t get involved because they can’t hear.
The need to feel a sense of belonging is the third highest in the Maslow’s hierrachy of needs, after safety and phsyological needs. If they can’t get involved, they can’t feel like they belong.
My mum also gets her to walk around the house everyday after dinner. She always sings and prays with my grandma regularly. We also try to bring her out for walks whenever we can. She’s not very mobile so she cant leave home on her own.
But, she’s very sociable by nature and can strike up a conversation with literally, anyone.
The simple activity of going down to the park gives her much needed sunshine, fresh air and conversations with neighbours.
She also gets to play with pet dogs if the neighbours bring them down.
These are simple everyday things to do. But, many times its really about discipline and commitment. What works for us, may not work for you… I encourage you to just keep trying different things. You may only find something that works on your 99th try.
I started on a Preventing Dementia Mooc and you can read my learnings here and here
This is probably my favourite resource for seniors because it’s really informative. It’s targeted at the family caregiver.
You can subscribe to their mailing list and they will send you weekly (I think) emails. They cover a wide range of topics. In their email, they focus on a topic for the week, and include other recommended readings.
Here are examples of their recommended readings.
4 Tips for Managing Multiple Health Conditions
7 Tips for Helping Seniors at the Doctor’s: Being a Health Advocate
10 Medications Seniors Should Avoid Taking
How to Approach Someone with Dementia: 6 Tips for a Positive Care Experience [Video]
Celebrate Father’s Day with 18 Gifts and Activities for Seniors
Golden Carers offers activities for seniors. They have a list of free activities and there is also a subscription fee where you can pay for more activities. But, many of their activities are quite targeted at the western audience. So, they may or may not be relevant for seniors in Asia.
This is a group created by the people who started the Golden Carers. There seem to be many individuals who work at senior facilities. They share the activities that they organise at their centres. Some of them have really creative activities.
It is also quite interesting to see the effort that goes into creating these experiences for seniors. It is a closed group so you have to request for access into the group.
This is quite a big group of caregivers to loved ones with dementia. Most of the caregivers in the group are from America. They are very open about their sharing and it can get quite emotional. But, many people in the group are also very encouraging and comforting.
Many of them seem to be dealing with loved ones in the moderate to severe stages of dementia. If you’re looking for an outlet to share your struggles, you can consider joining the group.
Caregivers Connect is a Facebook page set up by AWWA. It shares news, stories and tips for caregivers. They share content very regularly. And, much of the content is relevant to the Singapore audience. This is a great page to follow for updates in Singapore related to caregivers.
Project We Forgot shares stories of caregivers to persons with dementia. Many of these stories are inspirational. They depict the dedication and sacrifice that caregivers have to make for their loved ones. They also organise sessions for caregivers in Singapore to come together.
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.
Do you want us to be a part of your journey? Leave your email address & you will never walk alone. We will send you FREE simple and effective exercises to engage your seniors at home.