by BERNAMA/ pic by BERNAMA
IT WAS about 4pm when suddenly the soothing strains of music, inspired by the sound of birds chirping and burbling brooks, wafted through the air in the double-storey house in Petaling Jaya.
Music, as they say, is food for the soul and in a corner of the living room, an elderly man can be seen deeply engrossed in something — he is sketching on a piece of paper.
Hovering over Loh Kum Hing, 85, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour), is his carer Chan Kuan Hong, 31, who is closely observing his patient’s movements, as well as the mountain scenery he is sketching.
Chan, who has a diploma in nursing, works for Homage Sdn Bhd which is among the growing number of companies providing home caregiving services to meet the needs of Malaysia’s aged care sector.
Department of Statistics Malaysia chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said in a statement last month that the population statistics for this year showed a rise in the percentage of those aged 60 and above at 10.3% compared to 10% last year.
“Malaysia is expected to experience an ageing population in 2030 with the percentage of people aged 60 and above at 15.3%,” he said, adding that a population is deemed as ageing when the percentage of senior citizens or those aged 60 and above reaches 15% of the total population.
Stimulate the Brain
Meanwhile Loh, after exercising his creativity, quickly switched to a card game with his carer.
“Since he has Alzheimer’s, drawing and card games are among the therapies we provide to stimulate brain functions and keep it active to avoid further loss of memory.
“We also play soft or sentimental tunes or music featuring the sounds of nature when carrying out these activities as it calms the mind and makes it more focused,” he told Bernama.
Chan, who is assigned as Loh’s carer early this year, spends three hours at his house every afternoon, except on Sundays, during which the senior citizen is made to participate in various activities that have the potential to activate his mind. Chan also monitors Loh’s health as he has hypertension and diabetes.
“I’m like a companion to Mr Loh. If he wants to go to the park or coffee shop, I would take him there. I would also keep him company when he watches comedies like ‘Mr Bean’, which seems to be his favourite,” said Chan, adding that Loh’s mental faculties have improved and at times he can even recall some of his memories.
Loh’s eldest son Eddie, 54, said he has seen a marked improvement in his father’s memory since he came under the care of a professional carer.
“I decided to use the services of a carer after my father’s condition (Alzheimer’s) worsened following the death of my mother. I was worried he might slip into depression,” said Eddie, a businessman.
He said he and his two younger brothers have also been taught how to manage patients with Alzheimer’s and how to take care of elderly people.
Growing Demand for Aged Care
Universiti Malaya (UM) public health medicine specialist and lecturer Associate Prof Dr Noran Naqiah Mohd Hairi acknowledges the rising demand for aged care services, adding that seeking the services of professional carers in a formal setting is sometimes the best option.
“However, those who send their elderly parents to institutions or hire carers to look after them at home must continue to interact with them and play an active role in their lives. This is important,” she said.
She also said parents and their adult children should learn to give and take, and adapt to each other’s lifestyles.
“When the children get married and turn to others (professionals) to take care of their elderly parents, it doesn’t mean they (children) are irresponsible and ungrateful. In actual fact, it is the right thing to do, especially if their parents need to be taken care of (due to their health conditions),” she added.
Dr Noran Naqiah had co-edited a book on the care of older persons entitled “Panduan Penjaga: Warga Emas”, published by UM in 2018. The other editors of the book are Associate Prof Dr Farizah Mohd Hairi and Prof Dr Claire Choo.
The book is based on the findings of a six-year study carried out by a team of UM academics since 2014 under UM’s Grand Challenge PEACE (prevent elder abuse and neglect) initiative.
Dr Farizah, who is also a public health medicine specialist in UM, said the management approach for elderly people who are stroke patients or suffered from Parkinson’s disease or dementia is different as they required specialised care.
“Children who want the best for their parents, but don’t have the time to take care of them will resort to using the services of professional carers. And, it is only from professionals can the children learn the right techniques to manage their elderly parents.
“But it is a problem when people don’t bother about their parents’ condition and leave it entirely to others to take care of them,” she added.