There is a Life After Diagnosis of Dementia

“I feel like a dodo”, “Why can’t I do simple calculations?”, “Where are my things?”

These are the voices that play over and over in the head of a 79-year-old who has been living with a diagnosis of mild vascular dementia since January 2020. Irene John @ Kanga Thavi felt the world was crashing down on her and that her value was being erased. However, with a little more understanding about her condition and the help of her care-partner, Pak Peter, she soon realised that it is simply not true. 

Suffice it to say, stigma is still very much at play, especially in our society when it comes to dementia among older individuals. 

Despite life taking a 180 degree turn for them, Pak Peter walked with Irene through the bleak times. Being the primary care-partner of his life partner, Peter said that it is not the end of the road although there is no cure, instead it’s a ‘slowly ease your foot off the accelerator’ situation. 

He shared that we need to switch gears and channel our focus on care. Out of the many things he picked up from his experience, one most crucial key to understanding people with dementia is changing your pace. The couple noticed that one can also live positively on the slow lane, learning to enjoy life at a slower pace.  

Irene, who is reaching 80 years of age, uncovers the upsides of engaging in stimulating activities that offer brain-boosting benefits.

“Art makes me a happier person. It brings me joy to know that I can do something. I didn’t have any knowledge on painting or pottery; my art teachers have done an excellent job with their patience in guiding me. I managed to assemble my collection of shells on a piece of canvas, all thanks to them.

“I had the chance to work with things I couldn’t do during my childhood. I made a candle holder, teapot, and a mug for Peter out of clay!” she exclaimed.

Pak Peter told Ipoh Echo, “We realised art and music therapy are the most valued therapies for people living with dementia; it has a significant impact on bettering their wellbeing. Irene attends her classes without fail. Some of the sessions she’s done are pottery and paintings. 

“Besides that, we also do a weekly planner wherein she will jot down her day-to-day tasks. As trivial as they are, they are helpful in keeping her mind active. Irene keeps a diary to journal her thoughts.

“While at home, she does the cooking and gardening. She would go to the market and get the groceries on her own. Meeting people is healthy for her, so don’t lock up people with dementia in the house. We shouldn’t take things away from them. Irene displays her ceramic art in her house and hangs her art crafts on the wall of our dining room,” he explained.

There is a tendency to keep family members with dementia in the dark because we are afraid they might not understand or that they would be a burden. However, doing so will only make them feel isolated and distant. A little love and understanding goes a long way, and it is no exception for people with dementia. 

Ipoh Echo applauds Pak Peter and Irene John for sharing their journey with us and with the public. 

Read more of Ipoh Echo’s articles on dementia here and here


Gisele Soo


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