Mr Richard Chan, 67, remembers his mother most vividly as a strong-willed businesswoman running a store in Changi Village who spoke multiple languages and dabbled in the stock market. "She was not your typical housewife. Mum didn't really look after the kids, she was looking after a business," he said.
But these days, Mr Chan finds himself showering his mother with meticulous care. He gave up his job two years ago, as a director at a watch distributer where he earned a five-figure salary, to do so.
His mother, Madam Cheng Wee Boon, 89, has dementia. The first signs appeared around four years ago, he said. She would hide things and become upset when she could not find them, and got lost several times while taking the bus.It was when she started eating poorly and her weight plummeted from 60kg to around 40kg, that "I thought to myself if I did not step in there wouldn't be a good ending".
So he quit his job and took full control of her care - which includes medication, home physiotherapy sessions, doctor visits, home social worker visits and the Alzheimer's Disease Association's Family of Wisdom enrichment programme where she can do activities like cook, paint or sing every week. "She would bring back her artwork and display it on the wall. Once in a while, she would look at it and say 'eh very nice'," he said.
These days, Madam Cheng is more cheerful and sociable, a far cry from three years ago when she lamented she was better off dead.
Said Mr Chan: "You need to show them you care." His way is to joke with his mother and to give her a hug and kiss whenever he can.