Forum: Putting mum in a nursing home will be the last resort

I refer to the report "Medical check-ups for maids enhanced to better detect abuse" (Aug 6) and comments by the Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Koh Poh Koon, on not wanting to "entrench our elderly in institutions as they age" (8 new nursing homes set up in past 5 years, Aug 5).

My mum has advanced dementia and it is my wish that she lives with me and my family in the comfort of our home.

Mum joined me from Penang when I gave birth to my first child in Singapore, and she stayed on thereafter to continue taking care of all of us.

After years of slogging for us, it is our turn to take care of her.

She has been receiving regular medical care, but in recent years, she has been increasingly exhibiting some offensive behaviour like pinching, beating, kicking and pushing away anyone who attends to her, including myself, as she does not recognise any of us now.

Previous helpers, having had some training, grew into the task of taking care of her and had been able to manage her.

My husband and I took in a new helper, M.E., in April, when my last helper completed her term.

During the interview session, we highlighted Mum's offensive behaviour owing to advanced dementia to all the candidates. M.E. stood out among all as she showed passion and tenacity, plus she had prior experience.

I was mindful of what she may be subjected to and trained her to handle my mum, cautioning her to be extra wary whenever she came into close contact with my mum during bathing, changing and when moving her.

One month into the job, she seemed to be fitting in well.

I did notice that she had some bruises, but she did not complain. As my husband and I have been working from home, we pitched in to help whenever it was needed.

About six weeks into the job, M.E. suddenly left my house early in the morning and did not return.

With the help of the maid agency which found her and brought her back from the Indonesian Embassy, we talked to her to understand why she ran away and I said I would put in more effort to help. We also reminded her of the importance of speaking up whenever she had problems.

Another six weeks passed and with more effort put in to help her with my mum, it seemed that our partnership was working out well.

I observed that my mum would pinch M.E. during bath or diaper-changing sessions, but M.E. would say: "It's okay, Ma'am." I too have suffered my share of bruises.

On July 27, M.E. went missing again. This time, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) got involved and the police were called in to investigate.

M.E. packed up and left, and I received a note from MOM that said I would not be able to employ another helper during the investigations.

All the required documentation, including a doctor's report, as well as appeal letters have already been forwarded to the relevant agencies.

While I desperately await a resolution to the matter, I have to juggle taking care of my mum and work, with household tasks put on hold.

Putting my mum into a nursing home will be my last resort. 

I just want to give her a familiar, clean and comfortable environment at our home, a place where she had spent a lot of time raising her grandchildren. I want to continue to take care of her and enjoy being together.

I hope to get advice from MOM on how I could have done better given the circumstances and what more I need to do when I next engage a new maid.

I would like to know what recourse I have and what I can do to prevent my family from having to go through this whole painful episode again.

Lily Lee