I asked my mum if she would be okay with me sending her to senior care in the future. Her response surprised me.

Asking the tough questions.

| Syahindah Ishak | Sponsored | September 06, 2023, 05:00 PM

"You worry too much."

I get this sentence thrown at me nearly every day, either by a friend or a family member.

The thing is, I don’t just worry about trivial things, like what to wear to the office or whether I have enough money for lunch.

I worry about the big things in life too, like what will happen to my family when I die or what if my future kids hate me. Big things that may seem far in the future.

So yes, as a full-time working adult in her early 20s, I do worry too much about things that have not yet happened, but that’s because I want to avoid potential problems or do something about them before it’s too late.

I’ve been worried about my mother growing old

Lately though, my mind has been plagued with one particular thing, or person to be exact: my mother.

She fell sick recently and as I watched her swallow the many pills she was prescribed, I found myself thinking about how things would turn out after she retires.

My mum is 51 years young this year.

While she is healthy and still working full-time as a primary school teacher, I know this won’t be the case forever.

I worry that my two older brothers and I may be too busy with our own families in the future to give her the care she needs.

At the same time, I’m also afraid that she might feel hurt if we were to get help to take care of her.

Instead of letting my worries eat my brains out (which, unfortunately, is often the case), I decided to talk to my mum about it.

Me: How often do you think about growing older?

Mother: Sometimes, I think about what or how I will be when I’m older. But I don’t let my thoughts or worries fester, unlike someone I know.

*Rolls eyes* Aren’t you afraid of growing old?

No, I take life one day at a time. I haven’t even reached that stage in my life so why must I worry about it or be afraid of it? It will just consume me now.

What do you expect from your children when you’re older?

The same thing I’ve always expected of my children since they were young — to be respectful of others and to be as decent a human being as they can.

If I’m still able, I would want to be independent, though I expect my children to visit me lah. Or to call me and check up on me every day if I don’t live with them.

What if you end up falling ill and are incapable of taking care of yourself? Would it be okay if your children get some help to take care of you?

I know my children would want to take care of me on their own, if possible.

But I know that they cannot be there for me all the time. By then, they would each have their own families and responsibilities. So it’s not practical for me to expect my children to care for me every second of every day.

In this case, I have no objections if my children were to hire a helper for me. It makes sense for the helper to be with me and take care of me while my children are at work and are busy with their own responsibilities. I’m open to that idea.

So you’re not going to get angry or be disappointed?

No, I won’t because I know and understand that my children have their own lives to lead.

Yes, I am their mother who, by then, may be old and sick. But logically, it’s kind of impossible to force my children to put their lives on hold just to take care of me.

However, even if they do engage a helper, I do still hope my children will make time for me and stay close to me. I would still want to see my children as often as I can. Maybe after they end work, they can spend some time with me, make me happy and make me forget that I’m actually sick.

Hiring a helper doesn’t mean that my children completely relinquish their role. A helper is there to help my children fulfil their job as filial children, and isn’t there to take over my children’s roles in loving me.

What are some traits/characteristics of a helper that you look out for if I were to hire one for you in the future?

You know that cleanliness is very important for me so that’s the first thing I prioritise — someone who is hygienic and can clean me well if I’m unable to do so myself.

I also hope whoever takes care of me is respectful, mindful of my religion and can remind me to pray when it is time.

Instead of getting a helper to come home to take care of you, what if we were to send you to a senior day care centre? You will spend your time there with other seniors during the day and then we will fetch you back home after. What do you think about that?

Yes I’m okay. I don’t mind that. Being in a senior care centre means that I will be able to keep myself occupied and even make some friends, instead of doing nothing at home.

And I don’t mind it because at the end of the day, I will still be with my family. I still get to spend time with them and see them on a daily basis.

As much as possible. I just don’t want to be a burden to my children. If I become a burden, my children will be stressed and this might affect their lives and the people around them. I don’t want that.

What about sending you to a nursing home or an old folks home permanently?

*Pauses* This one I’m a bit hesitant.

I would be uncomfortable being stuck somewhere and not being able to see my family for long periods of time. When I get older, I would still like to be at home and spend time with my children and grandchildren.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, you can get the help you need to take care of me, but I wouldn’t want you to completely leave me. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

Do you think children who send their parents to nursing homes or old folks homes are unfilial?

It’s not right to judge others without trying to understand their circumstances. Each family has their own reasons for doing certain things. You never know what a family is going through internally. Maybe that is the most feasible option for them at that point of time, especially if their parents are very sick and there is no one at home all the time to care for them. We cannot think of these people as unfilial just because they send their parents to nursing homes.

Personally, I’m not for the idea of my children leaving me in a home, but if that were to happen, there must be a very good reason for it. It should be the last resort, instead of an easy option. Even then, I hope that my children will still be able to visit and spend time with me as much as possible.

What do you think are some sentiments that people your age or those older than you have about senior care?

I know that the mention of “senior care” can scare some people off. I know some people are afraid that they’re going to get abandoned or that their children would completely forget them.

I’ve seen firsthand some elderly who have felt unloved when their children engage senior care services.

Whether you choose to send your parents to a day centre for seniors or nursing home, what you need to understand is that most people my age, or older, still need to feel loved by their children.

We know that physically, we may not be as strong or independent as we used to be. But for our last remaining years on this planet, we still need our family to keep us going.

Speaking to my mum eased most of my worries about how to balance future life responsibilities.

While I’m still a little apprehensive about how to cope with my mum’s care needs in the future, I now have a clearer idea of what she prefers and the options I can explore when situations arise.

Although it sounds scary, senior care can be helpful for many Singaporeans who, like me, are worried that they can’t give their parents the proper care they require.

Find the right kind of senior care services

If you’re looking for senior care services for your parents, you can check out NTUC Health’s eldercare services.

Its Senior Day Care programme provides a space where your senior loved ones can engage in activities and make friends during the day.

Flexible arrangements are also available if you need more options, such as care support on Sundays, virtual programmes that engage the seniors online, or activities specifically designed for persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia.

If your senior loved ones prefer to remain in the comfort of their own home, you can also arrange for care professionals from NTUC Health’s Home Care service to visit your home and keep your senior loved ones company, while ensuring their care needs are met.

Additionally, NTUC Health has six nursing homes across Singapore to provide support for seniors who require extensive round-the-clock care.

Those who need financial assistance for eldercare services can check if you are eligible for the subsidies available.

For more information on NTUC Health’s eldercare services, visit this site.

This sponsored article by NTUC Health made this writer hug her mother tightly.

Top image via Unsplash.