After they realised the stigma of neurological disorders and terminal illnesses perpetuates a culture of fear and ignorance, Jeremy Boo and Lee Xian Jie embarked on their first film, and spent more than a year observing the lives of two women and their families’ struggle with dementia and depression. The interwoven story that emerges explores existential themes of identity, love, sacrifice, religion, and death.
When I first learnt that I would be assigned to the new dementia unit, my first thoughts were, “How do I take care of them?” You’d hear warnings from your friends in the other wards about the residents with dementia, “So-and-so always wanders around, sometimes she might bite you, and sometimes she wrings her poo at you.” And we wanted to put everyone with dementia in one unit. So I was scared.
Grandma’s memories have stood still since I entered National Service. Despite my ORD 3 years ago, she has never stopped asking me good-naturedly when I would complete my service. My mother would tease her, saying that I’m getting married soon, and that she would be a great-grandmother. It was then that she would realise that her memory was failing her, and/or play along, and we would all share a laugh.
Today I stayed over at grandma’s. I wanted to photograph grandma again because now she is suffering from dementia. She has not gotten any better in the last year, and the fall she suffered a few months back made her health a lot worse. Grandma, who used to manage everything herself, now depends on help around-the-clock. Although her mind is muddled because of the disease, she clearly knows that her freedom has been taken from her.
My grandpa suffered mild dementia before passing on when I was 9. At that age, not having the full understanding of dementia left me puzzled, frustrated and hurt whenever I was conversing with my grandpa. As his condition worsened, so did the closeness I had with him.
I love my Dad, but can this be forever? I am thankful for him, for the good times we’ve spent together, the lessons he has taught me, the advice he gave me and the philosophies of life he shared with me to make me a better person. For all that he is, how can I not love him? Yet, if in years to come, he is no longer what he is and used to be, can I still love him?
I was never as close to my grandfather as my cousins and uncle were. Other than my mother, my sisters and I were never enthusiastic about visiting him as he lived with my uncle in the East, which was a forty-five-minute drive away. It was pure agony. I felt that there were better things to do other than visiting him and “rotting” at my uncle’s house. A three-generation gap spanning fifty years made things worse.
My late mother had dementia for a few years before she died. It started innocuously enough. Her chopsticks would occasionally slip from her hand while we were having dinner, and she would put sometimes put her foot into the wrong shoe. We didn’t realise that these would be the first signs of dementia; we simply thought she was just getting old and forgetful. When her condition got worse, she would often accuse the maid of not making her lunch or stealing from her purse. It took us some time to realise that our beloved mother was losing her mind but when we did, it was very painful for us.
Often, a single memory resides not in one mind, but in two. Every passing bit of life in the company of a loved one leaves a gentle imprint on two moulds, and every imprint, an echo of affection. We remember together; that unique happiness of recounting previous happiness. We forget together; that partial burial of troubling venial history. But what happens when One forgets, alone?