'I feel I have lost my freedom': 72-year-old shares struggle caring for dad, 99, who has dementia

Miss Soh Siok Wui quit her sales job five years ago to look after her father, who needs help with all the activities of daily living. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

SINGAPORE - Miss Soh Siok Wui, 72, is increasingly feeling the toll of looking after her father, who turns 100 in December and suffers from dementia, as she ages.

She quit her sales job five years ago to look after him. She said: "My strength and energy levels are not as good as before."

For example, it is harder to lift him to and from the bed alone, Miss Soh, who is single, said.

His dementia has worsened, and he now needs help with all the activities of daily living, such as bathing and feeding.

He also suffers from heart and other health problems, can no longer walk without aid and no longer recognises Miss Soh, his eldest child.

She said that her life now revolves around his care.

"I feel I have lost my freedom," she said in Mandarin. "I like to work, and it took a lot to get used to not working and not having an income."

The initial period of being a full-time solo caregiver, when she felt the most helpless, was the hardest. Then, she often worried about her father's health and safety, fearing that he would wander off alone and get lost, among other concerns.

Miss Soh said she had a bad experience with a maid who cared for her late mother, so she would rather not hire another. And her four siblings who are still alive have their own families.

But she gets help from her two sisters, who take over her duties regularly so that she has some time of her own.

She also benefited from a support programme for caregivers run by the social service agency Montfort Care. There, she made friends with other caregivers, and she enjoys its activities such as talks on various issues and outings.

She takes her father to the sessions, and staff and volunteers would attend to him so that she can concentrate on the programme. She also volunteers to elder-sit other seniors while their caregivers attend the sessions.

"We learn from one another on how to cope, and, listening to other people's accounts, I realise others have a harder time than me.

"At least, my sisters help me, and family support is very important," she said. "My father is a good father, so I try my best to look after him."

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