Providing Respite Care For Dementia Caregivers

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Mr Lim Kay Kwong has found respite after putting his advanced dementia wife, Betty, in day care at MWS Senior Care Centre – Eunos

When Betty Pay first came to MWS Senior Care Centre (SCC) – Eunos, she refused to interact with the staff.

An advanced dementia senior, Betty was provided doll therapy where she was given life-like dolls to cuddle and care for like babies. Doll therapy is provided to persons with dementia to engage them emotionally in a way that may be soothing and therapeutic. This form of therapy is known to improve the well-being, comfort and quality of life of persons living with dementia.

For seniors like Betty, doll therapy helps to engage her as she is no longer able to participate in activities or meaningful conversation.

“When Betty first started day care, we engaged her with dolls. She would carry the dolls around with her and talk to them. When she accidently dropped the dolls, she would be anxious and worried,” shared Valerie Koh, Centre Manager of MWS SCC – Eunos.

“Her engagement lasted only for about 1 to 2 months. Thereafter, she would cry whenever we gave her the dolls. As she became comfortable with our staff, she progressed from engaging with dolls to interacting with our staff and other clients instead,” said Valerie. However, she added, the 65-year-old is largely incoherent due to her condition.

Betty’s 68-year-old husband, Mr Lim Kay Kwong, shared: “My wife is happier now and is able to engage with the staff easily. At the previous day care centre that I brought her to, she was reluctant to go and I had to force her. But after we moved to MWS SCC – Eunos, every morning, she would tell me that she wants to come to the Centre.”

He added: “If we have to miss an appointment at the Centre, she will make noise because she misses the staff. They are very patient with her and treat her very well, and she listens to what they say.”

Opened in January 2022, MWS SCC – Eunos caters to frailer older adults who require day care or community rehabilitation services. About 70% of the Centre’s 60 day care places are catered to those with dementia.

The Centre supports seniors to age in place in the community by caring for their overall well-being. Our Centre design and person-centred care approach aims to create a sense of family and home for our day care clients like Betty.

A former clinic receptionist, the 65-year-old first displayed signs of dementia in 2016, following her father’s passing, shared Mr Lim. He added that he quit his bus driver job back then to become a full-time caregiver to his wife. “My wife became very agitated after losing her father. She changed into an entirely different person. She forgot everything, and she couldn’t even recognise her children at times.”

The couple have two children who are married and no longer living with them. Mr Lim shared that in 2019, his wife’s condition deteriorated, and since then, he had to assist her in activities of daily living, including toileting, showering and eating.

“It’s very stressful to be a full-time caregiver. If I didn’t have day care workers to help me look after my wife, I would ‘die’,” said Mr Lim. “My son helped me to apply for day care because he saw that being a 24/7 caregiver to my wife was taking a toll on me.”

Mr Lim first brought his wife to MWS SCC – Eunos in February 2022, shortly after he moved into the neighbourhood. He chose the Centre due to its proximity to his house. Mr Lim drops his wife off at the Centre each weekday morning, and picks her up in the late afternoon.

The Centre’s care assistance has provided invaluable respite for Mr Lim. He said, “I don’t feel so stressed anymore. My wife has sleep problems and is usually awake at night and keeps talking to herself. That affects my sleep too. When I send my wife to day care, I can catch up on sleep, go grocery-shopping or meet with friends.”

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