Shortly after his father passed away from liver cancer in 2005, Mr. Jasni bin Daud noticed that his mother’s mental health deteriorated. From struggling to complete familiar tasks and becoming more forgetful, she eventually lost her ability to do household chores and buy groceries from the market.
Then working full-time as a cleaner at the ABC Brickworks Market in Bukit Merah, Jasni returned home one day to find his mother on the bathroom floor. Recognising that she had become injury prone and cognitively impaired, he saw that leaving her alone at home was no longer possible. The 55-year-old devised a part-time arrangement with his employer, and ever since, he’s been the primary caregiver to his mother who suffers from dementia.
“I want to work to keep my mind fresh,” shared the fifth-born child among seven siblings.
Today at 69, urinary incontinence causes Jasni’s mother to soil her bed and the chair she sits on outside in the living room. Despite her resistance towards wearing adult diapers and the need to clean up after her, Jasni isn’t put off one bit and continues to patiently coax his mother every day. Among other things, he helps dress her in her baju kurung (traditional Malay dress) and reminds her to put on the diapers.
Worried that his mother may injure herself trying to move around in the dark, he leaves both a bedroom night light and the bathroom lights on throughout the night. Wishing to do his best for her, Jasni declared that it was his duty to take care of his mother and not something to sulk about. Likening it to how she has raised him lovingly, he teared as he described the little things that a mother does for her child.
Whenever outsiders suggest leaving his mother at a nursing home, Jasni would retort furiously: “I have brothers and sisters. Why put my mother in a nursing home? Don’t say that! She is my mother and I want to do it.”
Recollecting how he used to take his mother out for satay bites at Geylang and shopping trips along Orchard Road, Jasni admitted that it was now difficult to continue those outings with her being confined to the wheelchair most of the time.
No easy task for Jasni alone, his siblings help by chipping in to care for their mother too. On days that Jasni has to juggle his part-time work, he drops his mother off at his sister’s place at Jurong West. Other times, the siblings take turns to relieve him temporarily of his caregiver responsibilities so that he gets some alone time to venture off to Johor Bahru and Batam for shopping and makan (eat food).
Aside from his siblings, Jasni has had the Caregivers Welfare Association (CWA) as a pillar of support for the past seven years. He has been able to tide over the rough patches in his life with guidance from a counsellor who checks in regularly with him whenever he drops by CWA to collect provisions such as canned food and staples such as rice. The monthly support group sessions where he shares his experience and learns from other caregivers has also been a pillar of psycho-emotional support.
When asked about the greatest obstacle in caring for his mother, Jasni pointed out that it was getting her to eat her meals so that she can take her medicine. To whet her low appetite, he leaves her favourite snacks like mangoes, apples, and mata kucing (longan) on the dining table or by her bedside for when she feels like having some.
At times, Jasni’s mother gets difficult and moody, and would tell him not to bother about her if she hurts herself. He responds by gently coaxing and sometimes teasing her, encouraging her to be more expressive about the help she needs. Knowing never to get cross or raise his voice, Jasni has learnt to become much more patient with her over time.
As for himself, Jasni wishes to worry less and seek happiness in the simple things, and strives on in higher spirits today, “Now at my age of 55, I want to change. I want to fight, I don’t want to think of my troubles.”
Caregivers’ Week 2016
Unconditional caregivers like Jasni don’t have it easy. Coping and managing their responsibilities are oftentimes challenging.
With a greying population, the need for caregiving support will become rapidly essential in Singapore. From the 5th to 11th November 2016, the Caregivers Welfare Association (CWA) will be hosting Caregivers’ Week in a bid to raise funds and to boost public awareness about the efforts and contributions made by the individuals who dedicate their time to caring for others.
From catching a charity movie screening of Doctor Strange, to a mass workout or terrarium workshop, join caregivers like Jasni during this special week to show a hand of support to the caregiving community.