Remembering The Recipe

The missing thought bubble above Zoe's head probably has many unsavory thoughts about the grinning idiot next to her
The missing thought bubble above Zoe’s head probably has many unsavory thoughts about the grinning idiot next to her

Last month I attended the premiere of the telemovie “Recipe”, commissioned by HPB, directed by Eric Khoo, starring Zoe Tay and aired on Mediacorp Channel 8 on 29 September 2013.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the movie deals with dementia, and the topic was handled as sensitively as possible, and made for a good 40 minutes’ viewing at the premiere. On television of course, you must’ve had to contend with the commercial breaks, because, you know, public service message or not, our local broadcaster still needs to make money.

After the premiere screening, there was a little gathering outside the cinema where invited guests made most of their photo opps with the stars of the show. Apart from having worked with Moses Lim (for the theatre production ‘Happy Ever Laughter’ last year) and the movie’s writer Wong Kim Hoh (who was the first ST reporter to interview me – for a Life! column known for featuring freak shows) I don’t really know the other notable people involved in the telemovie.

So I went around introducing myself and I asked Zoe Tay if she remembered me. I told Zoe I remembered her playing mahjong at a mutual acquaintance’s home, where she asked if I could bring durians from my mother’s durian tree the next time they had a session.

She looked at me with eyes betraying horror, probably vaguely remembering such an instance, but not sure whether it was an incepted memory, not sure whether there was an unsavoury extension to that memory that she would have liked erased, not sure whether I was pulling her leg, and not sure whether to call the nearest Mediacorp artiste manager to get me thrown out of GV Vivocity.

The Queen of Caldecott held her poise, thankfully, and we posed for photos.  You can see from the shot that she’s still wondering whether she gets paid enough to deal with asses like me.

OK, enough goofing off – I was actually glad that the HPB pooled these resources and talent together to get information about dementia known to a wider audience. Now, at least for the people who managed to watch “Recipe”, you’d know that dementia is NOT a normal form of aging, and that there are signs to look out for:

  1. Memory loss – especially one that affects day to day functioning – even remembering the day of the week and what days come after, for example;
  2. Difficulties with doing familiar tasks
  3. Difficulties finding the right words and with communication
  4. Mood swings
  5. Confusion of time and place
  6. Misplacing things
  7. Problems with abstract thinking
  8. Poor or decreased judgement
  9. Changes in mood or behavior
  10. Changes in personality
  11. Withdrawal from work or social activties

It is also a progressive disease, and signs might not be obvious in the beginning. But it is important to keep a look out for them, and just like in the movie, deal with them with the network of support that is available to us in the public healthcare system.

There are nearly 30,000 recorded cases of dementia in Singapore presently, and you can imagine, with the lack of public education, many more being unrecorded and untreated.

The look of horror in the character Madam Ching’s eyes when she can’t figure out where her hawker stall is (because she’s moved into her daughter’s home), or remember the supplies she needs for the day’s cooking sums it all up – patients of dementia need constant care and support.

We’ve also seen from time to time, FB and twitter appeals to help look for an aged relative who’s gone wandering off for hours. It is terrifying and heartbreaking, and one of the ways we can help is to arm ourselves with as much useful information about dementia as we can get.

Because of the constant care required to look after dementia patients, if you have a relative or friend who has dementia, it’ll affect you as well. You’ll want to remain as positive as possible, and to provide as encouraging and supportive an environment as possible for everyone around you.

I encourage you to watch “Recipeonline, right after this blog post. Tell your friends about it too. Like what the specialist in the telemovie says, essentially, the person suffering from dementia may have memory loss, mood swings and personality changes, but he or she is still the same person inside who needs your love and support.

If you do need more information, or someone to talk to about dementia – call 1800 223 1123 or browse through the dementia website.