A former senior white-collar professional, Jack Wong was no stranger to 50-hour work weeks and monthly business trips.
But when dementia robbed his mother of her mental faculties and, along with it, her independence in 2012, her care became his full-time focus.
“Things went downhill and she became very forgetful. She would wander out on her own without knowing how to come back,” said Jack.
“She needed someone to be with her at home so I decided to quit my job to look after her.”
In 2017, her health was dealt yet another blow — a bout of ear cancer left Jack’s mother, who was in her late eighties, deaf and bedridden.
He said: “She needed a lot of assistance with bathing, feeding and moving around. Because of her infections, her urine had to be drained every six hours. “It was getting to the stage where it was very difficult for me to handle everything by myself.
“Being at home was actually more tiring than working,” he quipped.
Upon a doctor's recommendation, Jack applied for admission to Assisi Hospice on behalf of his mother and she was accepted under the Temasek Foundation – Dementia Hospice Care programme.
The centre-based dementia palliative programme is the first of its kind in Singapore to provide person-centred care for patients with advanced dementia and their caregivers.
While he was initially hesitant to relinquish his caregiving duties, his worries were allayed once he saw first-hand how the Assisi staff went above and beyond their call of duty.
"The programme made everything as comfortable as possible for my mum. There was a multi-disciplinary team delivering specialised care to manage her condition.
“By then, she couldn’t eat with a spoon and they had to feed her with a syringe. It would take as long as an hour but they were very patient with her.”
This compassion was also extended to the patient’s loved ones, much to Jack’s appreciation. "Whenever I was around, the social workers and nurses would ask 'How are you doing? Are you getting enough sleep?'
“During the Christmas period, volunteers even came by with different treats every day to bring cheer to the caregivers.”
With his mother approaching the twilight of her life, Jack was thankful that the programme afforded him the precious luxury of time.
“At home, I was so busy taking care of my mum that I couldn’t spend quality time with her. “At the hospice, I could just sit by her side, hold her hand and talk to her.
“I could be there for my mum as a son first, and a caregiver second.”
A month after her admission, Jack’s mother passed away peacefully in the loving company of her family. Looking back, Jack has nothing but fond memories of her time at Assisi Hospice.
“I’d always thought it would be better for me to personally look after her. But at the hospice, I could see that the amount of care given to her was beyond what I could provide myself.
“I knew my mum was in really good hands and everyone deserves that in their final moments.”
Temasek Foundation – Dementia Hospice Care programme is the first centre-based dementia hospice care programme in Singapore to provide person-centred care for patients with advanced dementia and their caregivers
Number of Beneficiaries (2016 to 2019)
235 patients with dementia and their caregivers
(Article was first published in the Temasek Foundation Cares FY 18/19 Annual Report)