Uzairah Azaman, from Singapore, was 24 years old when her father was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s. She shares how her dad’s condition has impacted her relationship with her siblings and how they cope with loving their father as he loved his.
By Uzairah Azaman
When I was growing up, I saw the way my dad cared for his late father. When grandad was battling with cancer for years, he made it a point to visit him in the hospital regularly. When it was hard, he was there. When it was inconvenient, he was there. He didn’t have to tell me how much he loved grandad or how we should care for our parents. He showed me with his actions.
I like to think that he knew and was certain that the roles would eventually point to us kids having to care for our parents – him and my mum. That he might need the constant and loving embrace of their kids. He showed us what it was to care for his own father and that has taught me to not give up on loving my own father. To love him like he loved his.
For the past two years, my siblings and I have been primary caregivers for our father who was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s in 2014. He was only 53 years old then. I was 24 years old. My brother, 17 and my sister, 16.
It was also during the time of his diagnosis that my siblings were taking their O’level Examinations. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them back then, to juggle major examinations and deal with the news of dad’s condition.
We learn as we move along, what to do and what not to do. We have drawn up a schedule and even split night shifts during the week to help care for dad. I have never seen a better functioning team than my siblings.
I think the sacrifice for all of us, is really in the lack of freedom that we have now. We’re tied to a schedule so that means that there isn’t a lot of spontaneity in life. I can’t just pick up and go anywhere when I want to. We can’t leave each other in the lurch.
But it’s a choice we’ve made. We support each other. We have a pact that when we are no longer needed to care for dad, the three of us will go away to finally take the break we need.
My dad, has through his condition, done the impossible. He has managed to bring me and my siblings closer than we were before he got sick. We’ve always had a great relationship but he has brought us closer as siblings, friends and caregivers to him.
We balance our lives by getting out and being active. If my brother or sister needs a break, someone will jump in to hold the other one up. Whoever has the broadest shoulders in that moment will help to hold the weight of our journey.
My dad was the rock of our family. I don’t make as good a rock as he does and I tend to get emotional easily. But it’s a role I’m willing to embrace and I do so by always keeping him as an example, close to my heart.
Thank you, Project We Forgot, for coming up with this community! It is very assuring to know that I’m not alone and that there are other younger individuals going through this in Singapore.