Janet Koh: What Care Means To Me


Caring is to always be there for my loved one. In 2010, I resigned from my full-time job as a secretary at 54 to take care of my elderly mother, Ng Sook Cheng. She was 76, and had suffered a stroke earlier that year. The stroke caused her mobility to be affected and she had to use a walking frame or a wheelchair to get around. My mother also had benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, making her prone to dizziness, fainting and falls. Caring is to take ownership as a caregiver. In 2014, my mother was diagnosed with dementia. In response, I took on the challenge of quickly learning as much as I could about dementia, in order to be better prepared to handle the challenges associated with it. I attended talks and support group meetings, and went through skills training programmes subsidised by the Caregivers Training Grant. I chose to take responsibility for looking after my mother, telling myself that if I did not, who else would? Caring is to value my loved one and to see her as separate from her mental health condition. I came to recognise that my mother’s behaviour, no matter how unreasonable it seemed, was due to dementia and the effects it had on her brain. Over time, I learned to focus on my mother’s current thoughts and emotions, instead of comparing her to how she was like in the past. There is a person behind the dementia, and I desired to understand and relate to that person. I know that this attitude allows my mother to live a dignified life despite her condition, and in my eyes she continues to be someone special. Caring is to look after my loved one unfailingly, even where it involves stressful or physically demanding tasks. In May 2017, a massive stroke recurred and my mother was paralysed on the right side of her body. It also caused her dementia t