Melissa Chan, based in Singapore, was 14 when her father was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s. She was inspired by her journey with her father and is now building a community of support for young caregivers caring for a person with dementia.
By Melissa Chan
I was about 14 when my dad was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer’s. The doctors attributed it to the belated emergence of effects from an accident he had when he was younger. For the next 10 years, I lived everyday seeing my father fight the disease and the family’s struggle to redefine normalcy…until he passed on in 2014.
Losing him has made me think about the millions of other people who are affected by Alzheimer’s, who may not know what to do with their family members who have it; or feel helpless and hopeless in the long months and years of caring for someone who is slowly slipping away.
I wanted to draw from my experience to do something for him to live on in his memory. My faint memories of him were from a younger age and I never really got the chance to know him better as a person and as a father, before we had to finally let him go. Project We Forgot is partially a tribute to my father.
Many of you who have or are going through the caregiving journey would know that it is one heck of a learning curve and experience. From understanding the diagnosis to coming to terms with it, learning on a daily basis what the disease does and what it robs from a person, balancing the caregiving with the urgent needs of the family, and simply, experiencing the heartache of missing a person when he is right in front of you – it’s a lot to handle.
It’s true that we can’t control this illness or fight against time, as much as we want to. But we don’t have to let it get the better of us. This is why I’ve been inspired to create this community to tackle the need for greater awareness and support – one that offers a younger and fresher take on the disease while focusing on the digital generation, to build a community of support and to let people know what Alzheimer’s truly is by humanising the disease.
As I build this, I often picture myself as a teen and imagine how much of a difference having such a community of support would have helped me and my siblings when we were going through my dad’s illness. I hope that this space will allow caregivers to find their place to identify and connect with other individuals who might understand what they are going through. And especially to the younger ones, for them to know that they are not alone, to know that it is ok to speak out about it, and to use their journey to inspire others.
Thank you for joining us in our adventure as we build this for you and with you. My team and I are constantly humbled by the support we get and your feedback helps steer us in the right direction. We ask for your patience as we test and grow this. Feel free to reach out to us should you have any ideas or feedback in helping us push this better together!