S'pore grandma with dementia loses her way after returning to the hawker centre where she used to work, kind passersby help her get home

There's a bittersweet end to this story.

Lee Wei Lin | April 25, 2022, 05:11 PM

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An administrator of Facebook group Hawkers United - Dabao 2020, Melvin Chew, shared a timely reminder that we should all look out for our elderly.

Photo by Melvin Chew via Hawkers United - Dabao 2020.

A helping hand

Chew recounted that he saw a woman walking around a hawker centre, and sensed that she had lost her way. He and his family then approached her, and realised that she didn't know how to get home.

It appears that she said something about her husband, as the Chews sprang into action to ask nearby hawkers if they knew how to contact him. Thankfully, a hawker named Emilie Wang has a regular customer who knew the man's phone number, and they got in touch with him to let him know his wife's whereabouts.

Former hawkers retired after wife was diagnosed with dementia

It was through this incident that Chew found out about the heartbreaking story behind the former hawkers.

He wrote:

Uncle love his hawker job, even at the age if over 80 he still wanna continued working but no family member taking over the stall and there is no manpower to help them (...) Few years ago, because of auntie's dementia illness, uncle had to retire and take care of her.

Chew confirmed that the grandma was looking for her former stall when she lost her way, and suggested that her best memories and times were spent in the hawker centre.

Another commenter questioned why the couple's children were not involved, to which Chew responded, "Even if they have children, if we never bring up then it's a sensitive issue. As I said, every family got their own story".

What you can do if you see someone with dementia who might need help

Chew urged those reading his post to take special note of the elderly who might be behaving unusually, wandering around or are unable to tell you who they are, adding that his biggest worry is if they end up roaming onto a road with busy traffic, or fall down.

While some commenters suggested that the auntie wears a lanyard around her neck with her next-of-kin's contact details, another pointed out that "some elderly might not like it and tend to throw it away when nobody notices".

Dementia Singapore, Singapore’s leading social service agency in specialised dementia care, caregiver support, training, consultancy, and advocacy, has a community, assurance, rewards, acceptance (CARA) programme, which features a Safe Return functionality.

For persons with dementia who are registered under the CARA programme and get separated from their caretakers or cannot find their way home, members of the public who find them can scan the QR code on their membership card to submit a report, and a notification will automatically be sent to their caregivers. There will also be the option to contact the registered caregiver directly.

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Top photo by Melvin Chew via Hawkers United - Dabao 2020.