1 Million kg Challenge: Update

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OK the fortnight is almost up, and I think I’ve lost the Blogger Challenge component (to get as many people to sign up for the 1 Million kg challenge) of the campaign.

That means a forfeit. Of me wearing spandex and doing yoga or some other exercise designed to make me look more ridiculous than I already do. So please, if you want to save your eyes and those of the nation, do your part and let me not be last if there’s still time.

Being a part of this campaign has been interesting. Not least because I got my friends thinking about what they’re eating and what they’re doing about their health. I get lunch reports from friends telling me what they’ve had and what they’ve cut out. A fried chicken meal is now had apologetically.

Last week, a friend brought Naomi and I a box of delicious nonya kuehs sprinkled with coconut and guilt.

Personally I don’t believe in putting even more stress on myself when it comes to my own health. I count myself lucky I’m able to enjoy tasty and unhealthy goodies once in a while, and in moderation. But to be able to do that requires a little bit of thought into what I’m eating.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with having pre-diabetes and I’m quite sure if I hadn’t modified my diet then, I’d have upsized it to full diabetes by now. I’m now so used to not having soft drinks or any drinks with added sugar that the last time I had a gingerale, I had a stomach ache for a whole night. Most days now, the drink accompanying my meal is a glass of water or a cup of unsweetened tea.

It pays to be mindful, and I’m glad we eat healthily in our household. I know it’s hard to change our mindsets – but like the proliferation of soup stalls shows, once we create the demand for healthier food, the supply will follow.

If the 1 million kg challenge is new to you, or your friends, sign up, and sign them up. Oh lordy save me.

1 Million kg Challenge: Not A Good Start

Our combined weight might be close
Our combined weight might be close

So I went to the 1 Million kg Challenge launch at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza on Saturday, signed myself up for the challenge by pledging to lose 3kg in three weeks.
It was a massive event, with exercise stations and sustenance stations where you could presumably learn about what kind of exercise was suitable for you, and what kind of food you could eat to become, and remain healthy.
The bad news is, in the days after the launch, I haven’t exactly been on the straight and narrow path to success. Being in the middle of a theatre production does that to you. It can be difficult to get enough rest, and I think I must have tallied an average of 5 hours a night this past fortnight.
Monday must have been a demonstration of what not to do if you wanted to lose weight: I woke up, dallied before skipping breakfast, then having a high carb lunch with little protein before feeling faint and trembly from hunger at about 4pm. Loaded up on another high carb pre-dinner, before having dinner and dessert. Fail.
I’ll get better. Promise.
Meantime, if you’re struggling with trying to get healthy and don’t know where to start – try signing up for the 1 Million kg Challenge and make a reasonably achievable pledge. There’ll be days (like mine) where your plans go awry, but keep at it, and keep me company. Let me know how your journey goes!
Remember to sign up: http://bit.ly/1iw4Uko

1 Million kg Challenge

We’re into the third month of the new year, and while I’m glad I didn’t make any health-related resolutions to break, I haven’t done anything for my health apart from an alcohol fast that ended when I went on holiday last month (walau, Hokkaido is home to many first class breweries, can?)

But that’s going to change with another HPB initiative. The 1Million kg Challenge aims to make the whole country lose 1 million kg through healthy choices in diet and fitness. That hopefully will make Singapore light enough to be towed out of this region and away from the haze.

So if you don’t want to be in the haze*, and want to be healthy, do sign up for the challenge at www.millionkg.sg to pledge your weight loss or complete healthy tasks to be rewarded** with prizes.
1MKGC Blogger Challenge - MIYAGI
The other challenge the HPB has initiated is this #1mkg Blogger Challenge. mrbrown, DanielFoodDiary, and myself will try to get as many people signing up on the 1 Million kg Challenge portal. Please click through this link or my picture on the right to sign up, and I’ll be credited with the referral.

This is where I beg and grovel for your help. Because if I come in last, they’re going to make me do something humiliating, like wearing spandex and doing hot yoga or something. So, tolong. Because mrbrown looks better in spandex than I do.

Over the next three weeks, mrbrown, DanielFoodDiary, and myself will be talking about our challenges in becoming healthy. We’ll be accompanied and mentored by the evil Dr Leslie Tay, who will torture us with tales of tasty hawker food while telling us it’s bad for us.

mrbrown and myself will also be at Ngee Ann City this Saturday between 3 and 4pm, supporting the launch of this campaign. Come and have a chat with us, and maybe give us your weight loss tips.

Think you’re up for the challenge? If so, then it’s game on! #campaign4mrbrown2wearspandex!

*sorry, joking. Haze beyond our control
**minimum system requirements: participants must be between 18 and 64 years old, and have an existing BMI of between 18.5 to 37.4

Dementia In The Family

I think it must have been more than 15 years ago when my father began showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.

We used to joke about how his two major symptoms then – forgetfulness and constipation – meant that he could never remember the last time he went to the toilet.

Things only started getting awry when he would go for long walks outside his office and forget where he was going, and when he was supposed to have come back.

I didn’t think much of it then, and the family used to say that it was partly his fault for not wanting to keep his mind active – because the conventional wisdom was that if you did things like Soduku (Do Soduku So You Won’t Go Suku was a tagline we used at home) or the crossword puzzle or chess, you would stave off the progress of senility.

About 10 years ago, my father started displaying signs of Parkinson’s Disease – tremors in his limbs and issues with balance started to creep in. Again, we didn’t take it seriously enough and only got him diagnosed officially a year or two later, when we finally thought it prudent to put him on medication.

Our journey as caregivers began then. We were lackadaisical at first – partly because I didn’t live with my parents, and partly because till then, I had never, ever thought of my parents as my dependents.

For the first year after his Parkinson’s diagnosis, my father must’ve skipped at least half of his medication, and when he did take them, it was quite likely to have been at the wrong time. It was only after we got him warded for some other matter – when he developed a slow bleed in his esophagus (due to still being on blood thinning medication when he actually didn’t need to any more) that we got a chance to reset his medication regime.

Dad got progressively worse with his Parkinsonism. His walks were reduced to shuffles, and every trip to the bathroom fraught with danger, even as support bars and other accessibility aids were installed.

Training the helpers who lived with my parents were another thing altogether. Once you get that into your minds, you’re ready to face reality.

I started calling to check on whether the helpers had given my father his medication at the right time, and on whether he’d gone to the toilet, and as another year passed, my father’s ability to speak coherently was reduced. Monthly consultations with the neurologist ruled out a stroke. It was simply Parkinson’s taking hold of his ability to control his vocal cords.

Dad became more reserved and reticent about wanting to go out – which, in reality, was quite difficult. Bundling him in and out of my car was an effort, and we could only leave the house for an hour or two at most. This took a toll on his mental well being. People had also been shouting at him, thinking that he was hard of hearing. This meant that all semblance of a normal, communicative social life was disintegrating.

Physically and physiologically, his condition worsened. He fell heavily once, fracturing his hip. But because he was by then so stiff from Parkinson’s, we didn’t know that he had been badly injured. A trip to the Orthopedic’s clinic confirmed it, and worse still, nothing could be done, and a hip replacement would have been expensive, and pointless.

Then my mother died. Quite tragically, almost in front of him, at home. He had noticed the chaos when medical crews were trying to get her to the hospital, but I kept telling him for days after that Mummy was in hospital, and should be home soon.

For all that Parkinson’s does to seize your muscles, including those on your face, it is the eyes that betray your emotions still. I saw shock and heartbreak when I finally told him we were going to bury my mother, but that we could not bring him to the cemetery.

In the weeks and months that followed as my siblings and I went about settling our mother’s estate, we took a much more detailed stock of our father’s condition and attendant needs. Alzheimer’s had set in, together with what was now termed “end-stage Parkinson’s”.

Every few days my father would ask me where my mother was. And so, every few days he’d experience shock, heartbreak and then realisation and resignation. This has always been the hardest aspect of taking care of my father. I find it better to look away from his eyes when he asks.

I am forever grateful that my mother’s best friend and church pastor came to see my siblings and I, and advised us to seriously consider a nursing home for our father. He said as a pastor, he had dealt with so many families in the same situation, and that it was normal that you’d worry about whether you’re giving the best possible care for your aged and medically needy parents.

More importantly, it was not ok to feel guilty about “sending” your parents to a nursing home.

We weighed up the options. Keeping my father at home would mean the helpers would need to be 24/7 and ready to assist him. Having had two helpers in my parents’ house then, we thought, ok, we could manage.

Unfortunately, we neglected to check on him thoroughly enough. He developed bedsores so badly infected that by the time we got him to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the doctors there asked us to prepare for the worst.

A month in acute care and another two in the fantastic rehabilitative ward of the Renci Hospital bought us enough time to look for a nursing facility for him.
By the time his wounds healed, the doctors at Renci informed us that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s were so advanced in my father’s case that full time care was an absolute necessity. Home care meant 24/7 attention plus weekly nurse visits if we didn’t hire a nurse already.

If we wanted to push it, we could have said we’d look after him at home. Technically, you could. We decided not to. It’s been more than a year now that my Dad’s been in the nursing home, where they look after his every need.

I feel guilty not because we’ve placed him there, but because I don’t make enough time to spend with him, in the few hours of the day that he’s lucid. I will make it a point to do so.

If you’re in a similar situation, do make a point of talking to your medical providers – one thing we found was that while they’re there to help, a lot of it is up to you to provide the information needed for fullest care possible. For instance, I’d never have known that Parkinson’s medication lowered blood pressure, and therefore my father needn’t have continued with blood pressure lowering medication (at one point, his BP went dangerously low).

The Health Promotion Board has organized a bunch of caregiver resources and a Dementia InfoLine at 1800 223 1123 where you can arm yourselves with information to make informed decisions about your loved ones, and just as importantly, for yourselves.

Don’t forget that your own lives are, or will be, just as affected as caregivers. In fact, just this week while at a script brainstorming session, my colleagues and I came across an article regarding midlife crisis and depression. Parents’ illnesses and death was listed as one of the main catalysts.

Sometimes I still struggle with managing the responsibilities as a son and a father, but I am glad there’s help at hand. Do take time to learn more, even if you are not in the situation I’m in. You’ll have friends who are, and they’ll need a hand sometimes.

Eric Khoo’s Recipe – A Film About Dementia

Recipe Poster

I was invited to watch an Eric Khoo telemovie last Tuesday called Recipe. It stars Zoe Tay, Li Yin Zhu, Moses Lim and Jayley Woo, and deals with the topic of dementia.

Why is this important? Dementia affects our aging population, and our aging population is growing. In 2005, there were about 22,000 recorded cases of dementia among the 65 and older in Singapore and this looks set to double even before 2020.

What this means for people with dementia, caregivers and the healthcare network cannot be underestimated. And yet, there are many of us who don’t know enough about dementia to even begin to know how to deal with it.

For example, dementia is not normal aging. In whichever form it takes – either Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia (which is caused by strokes), it is an illness that needs medical attention, and it is a condition that needs care and monitoring.

I wish I had known even this basic information years ago, because this subject matter is something I feel very strongly about – my family is dealing with it. Nonetheless, I am glad I’ve learned from the wealth of information available in our healthcare system. Being the immediate family member in charge of managing my father’s illness also presents an educational opportunity – telling my friends, and my father’s friends what’s going on with him is something I seldom tire of.

But I am glad that there are attempts made, like this telemovie, to put the issue up for education and discussion.

This film tells the story of the journey of Madam Ching, who’s been running her hawker stall for several decades selling scissor cut curry rice.

Trouble starts when the snaking queues for her famous fare begin to shrink after her culinary skills take a dive and become erratic. Her daughter Qiu Yun steps into the picture when an accident occurs at the stall. And at follow up medical appointments, it is discovered that Molly has the beginnings of dementia.

The other players in Madam Ching’s journey are her family, friends, workmates and customers, and they all share in her pain, fear and at times outright terror at the unknown.

It is a sensitive portrait of people dealing with and trying to make sense of the sometimes unpredictable family life that dementia brings.

It is something that is close to my heart, and you know I would never encourage anyone to watch Channel 8, but here it is, I’m telling you now – when they screen this on the telly on 29 September, 9pm, WATCH IT. Or record it to watch later.

For more information on dementia and on Recipe the telemovie, please click through: http://hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/HPB055017

 

With HRH The Queen of Caldecott Hill. Zoe Tay's performance in this tele movie is her best ever, IMHO.
With HRH The Queen of Caldecott Hill. Zoe Tay’s performance in this tele movie is her best ever, IMHO.