Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

Pursuing diploma at 60 to give mum with dementia better care

SINGAPORE – When her mother started showing signs of dementia about seven years ago, Ms Ng Joon Lin, 60, was at a loss.

Her prayers were answered when she came across a part-time specialist diploma course in ageing practice at Temasek Polytechnic.

Ms Ng, who works part-time caring for seniors, jumped headlong into the course and said she now feels more competent in taking care of her mother, who is 87 years old.

Ms Ng, who is married and does not have children, said: “As my mother’s dementia worsened, I wanted to upgrade myself so I could take better care of her. She has given me so much love and this was the least I could do for her.”

Ms Ng was one of the more than 1,660 working adults who graduated from a total of 17 diploma courses, 35 specialist diploma courses and 25 SGUnited skills programmes at Temasek Polytechnic two weeks ago.

Ms Ng said going back to school at her age was tough, but she kept going because she knew her mother depended on her.

In 2014, Ms Ng put her mother at an elderly daycare centre but she refused to eat or drink or let the nurses bathe her.

The same year, Ms Ng also received letters from the police saying her mother had been making nuisance calls.

She questioned her mother, who could not remember making the calls.

Ms Ng said: “It dawned on me that she was trying to call me but couldn’t remember my phone number. My heart broke when I realised how much she needed me.”

She decided to move out of her Woodlands home to live with and care for her mother at her flat in Upper Aljunied Road.

During her studies at Temasek Polytechnic, Ms Ng learnt to better understand the process of ageing and how to cater to the needs of her mother.

Recounting an episode where she tried to feed her mother, Ms Ng said her mother refused to eat and threw the bowl on the floor.

“Initially, I got very angry with my mother but during my studies, I learnt that the muscles in the mouth and gums in the elderly weaken rapidly so it is difficult for them to chew,” she said.

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Ms Ng also signed up for another part-time specialist diploma in nutrition for ageing well at Temasek Polytechnic last month to learn how to provide her mother with a proper diet.

Learning about the ageing process also allowed Ms Ng to better understand and empathise with what her mother is going through.

She said: “Besides the theoretical knowledge studied in the course, I also learnt to become more enduring and patient with my mother as well as how to better connect with her.”

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