Kit Chan organises weekly family colouring sessions for mum with osteoporosis

Stories of Us: The voice behind the iconic National Day song 'Home' shares with Mothership the ups and downs of being one of the caregivers to her elderly mother.

Fasiha Nazren | January 10, 2021, 09:03 PM

Many would know Singaporean singer Kit Chan, 48, as the melodious voice behind iconic National Day song "Home".

But beyond that, Chan is also a daughter and caregiver to her 78-year-old mother.

Photo from Kit Chan's Facebook page.

In an interview with Mothership, the singer shares the ups and downs that her family has gone through caring for a loved one with osteoporosis.

Caring for someone with osteoporosis

In 2012, Chan's then-71-year-old mother had a fall that resulted in a hip fracture.

That was when the doctors diagnosed the elderly woman with osteoporosis.

For the uninitiated, osteoporosis is the deterioration of the bones and is most commonly found in post-menopausal women.

According to Chan, a fall is one of the most common ways that people come to discover that they have osteoporosis.

"We were not too shocked [by the diagnosis] by then, because the fall, the hip fracture and the hip replacement was a bigger shock," she said.

"It all seemed to make sense when we were told of the diagnosis. Healthy bones should not fracture so easily and in such a major way, right? We accepted it and knew we will simply have to manage it."

Loss confidence

However, accepting the diagnosis didn't come as easy for Chan's mother.

As a result of the fracture, the septuagenarian was less mobile and had to move at a slower pace.

While recovering from the fracture took about two months, Chan shared that it required a "much longer time" for her mother to recover mentally and emotionally from the trauma.

Because of the fall, there is the constant fear and anxiety over suffering another fall again.

The incident also caused her to lose some self-confidence as she began to feel incapacitated and limited in her abilities and lifestyle.

"This is all very understandable because she was such an independent person who could go anywhere by herself, and she was impatient and highly capable."

After some time and love from the family, however, she came to terms with her condition.

Adapting to condition

Dealing with osteoporosis meant that Chan's mother had to make various adjustments to her lifestyle.

For one, she had to change her diet by including more calcium and protein to build bone and muscle mass.

She also had to be on medication to help the body absorb and retain the calcium.

Exercise became a part of the elderly woman's daily regimen, although she has to be careful not to overdo it.

Chan explained,

"We also have to be very mindful of the amount of walking that is required when we go out together as a family.

Basically, nothing is the same anymore. We had to contend ourselves with a 'new normal.'"

There was a shift in the household as well.

Describing her mother as a "very strong and resilient woman", Chan said that prior to osteoporosis, her mother enjoyed doing activities like gardening, cooking and travelling.

A family photo of Chan (in yellow dress) with her siblings and mother. Photo courtesy of Kit Chan.

She was also the one who would run the household in every way, including shopping for groceries and taking care of the family like the dutiful mother she is.

Since the diagnosis, however, Chan's father has stepped up as the main caregiver to his wife.

"She appreciated how my dad stepped up and took over many of the responsibilities she used to hold. I think she started to enjoy being 'looked after', when once she was always the one looking after everyone else."

Starting new traditions

After her diagnosis, the family noticed that she was readily able to accept the changes in her life and having to do less of the things she loved.

"It worried us at first, because it seemed like she merely gave up on them. Perhaps she did, but she was someone who could let go of things easily if she had to, and she never complained, but merely stopped doing these things."

Instead of putting pressure on her to pick up these things, however, the family looked for new ways for Chan's mother to engage with life and the family.

Since then, they've discovered a new thing that they enjoy doing together: Colouring.

Starting a new family tradition, Chan is now in charge of organising weekly colouring sessions for the family before having lunch together.

She said: "It's one of my mum's favourite ways to spend time with us. And when she is happy, my dad is happy. Which is killing two birds with one stone!"

It takes a village

While her father primarily takes care of her mother, Chan likens herself, her sisters and her nephew as the support team.

While Chan and her sisters don't live with their parents, the siblings ensure that their ageing parents don't feel neglected or not supported by taking turns to support or keep them company.

This includes practical functions like visits to the doctor or simply by keeping them happy and letting them feel happy and respected.

Like most families, there were some things where they didn't see eye to eye at first.

For one, maintaining a harmonious relationship with the other caregivers didn't come as naturally for them, and tension would sometimes arise between them.

However, they proved that blood is indeed thicker than water.

She said,

"But we came to realise that if we can stand together, and band together, and be appreciative and understanding of each other’s challenges and limitations, things become much easier, and these can be some of the most meaningful times we can spend together as siblings, caring for our parents. We do not want any regrets."

Over time, caring for their mother made them spend more time together as a family.

"We are pretty good as a family, in terms of pulling together and doing our bit. We have come to realise that we are the sort of family that bonds much better in adversity.

Taking care of my mum has brought us all much closer together, and I am so grateful for this. I know it could have easily gone the other way."

Strengthened relationship with mother

As one of the caregivers to her mother, it has also helped to strengthen her personal relationship with her mother.

While most Singaporeans would think of Chan as a successful performer with multiple accolades to her name, her mother was initially against her taking up performance as a profession.

Calling herself a "wayward and rebellious daughter" up to her early 20s, it was only after years into her career when her mother began to accept Chan's decision, and here's why:

"She said it was because she had never seen me more responsible, hardworking, dedicated and focused in my whole life.

Her answer made me see that my mum only had my best interest at heart. She was not thinking about whether I would be successful according to the world’s standards, but whether I was becoming a better person."

'It is my turn to care for her'

Chan told us that it makes her feel sentimental and sad seeing her parents growing older day by day.

Which is why she has dedicated more personal time to her family in the past five years so that she can do more to have a good life with her parents, while they are still here.

"Becoming her caregiver has definitely strengthened the bond between us. It has closed the circle. When I was young, she cared for me. And now that she is old, it is my turn to care for her."

Having shared her experience as a caregiver to a loved one with osteoporosis, she thinks that it only makes sense to focus on what can be done instead of what cannot be done.

"Make the best of what you have and can do, and if you have done your best, don't be too hard on yourself.

Try to make meaningful alliances with other family members. It is much easier to do it together. And remember, love will make all the difference."

Follow us on LinkedIn for more storiesMothership Linkedin

Top image courtesy of Kit Chan.