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Early Intervention: Does Hua Hee help your grandma?

After experiencing the pain of dementia at home, Christel Goh creates games for people and communities to engage seniors.

When i share with others about my card games, many often ask, “So, your grandma is better now because of your card games?”

To which, I would reply that my family does many different things, in the area of early intervention.

In this blog post, I share about the various lifestyle interventions — food, activities, exercise and social inclusion.

Through all of these, we’ve seen an extremely positive change in my grandma.

Here’s some context:

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

My grandma showed early warning signs of dementia two years ago. She got agressive. She had signs of short term memory loss and suspicion.

This was unsual because she’s usually very sharp and is very mild mannered. But, my mother was very determined not to let her “get” it.

My grandfather had dementia more than five years ago. It was a time where there was much less knowledge/support on the condition in Singapore.

Lots of Research

My mum did extensive research on dementia — from understanding the condition, how it occurs, how to prevent and slow it down.

While many people would say that it’s impossible to reverse the condition of dementia, we’ve seen vast improvement in my grandma. Although, we’ve never gotten her diagnosed in the first place.

The positive change in her memory, behaviour and temperamant shows us that early intervention is really important.

I feel that many people in time starved cities like Singapore dont have the time to watch for behavioural changes in their loved ones, much less embark on early intervention.

People may only see the need to intervene when the symptoms of a condition become servere. By then, it may be too late? I don’t know.

Here’s what my family does for my grandma:

1. Food

Coconut oil is great for persons with dementia or show early warning signs of dementia
Coconut oil is great for persons with dementia or people who show early warning signs of dementia. 

My mum is very health conscious so my grandma eats homecooked food everyday.

My family also hardly eats rice so we limit her rice intake.

Even when she does eat rice, our rice at home is a mix of white, brown rice and barley.

My mum is also against processed food so we don’t really eat things like luncheon meat and spam. (haha)

According to my mum, if whatever you’re eating doesnt have a face, it is processed.

We also take loads of spices in our food like tumeric, cinnmon etc. Tumeric is one of those things that appears to be good for the brain.

My mum also read about the benefits of coconut oil for the brain. Since then, my grandma religiously takes  a spoonful of coconut oil everyday.

While there isn’t sufficient research to back the benefits of coconut oil, there are many stories of it benefiting others online.

We’ve also seen a significant change in her memory and disposition ever since we got her started on coconut oil.

You can get coconut oil at a DISCOUNTED PRICE HERE.

2. Activities

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.

3. Exercise

Last year, she fell down at home a few times. Those were scary experiences. We struggled with getting her off the floor . Thank God she wasnt hurt in those episodes.

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.

I shared about how consistent exercise helped her gain strength in her legs previously.

4. Social Inclusion

Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash

What she gains out of 2 & 3 is social inclusion. It has been reported that hearing loss can lead to dementia and it’s easy to imagine why.

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

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