Memories…light the corners of my dad’s mind

It’s really quite painful to see my father deteriorating over the recent years from dementia. I drive him to New Horizon Day Care Centre for dementia patients several times a week. We don’t talk much in the car; every time I ask my father a question, he answers in unintelligible garb. If I ask further, he may get agitated or confused and that’s not good because then he starts to lose his temper and then start swearing. Strange how the brain can’t remember most words but can remember all those damning swear words…

A couple of months ago, I was as usual toggling across radio stations as I was driving my dad to the centre. I can’t stand the music the radio stations play, but I do enjoy the jokes and conversations I hear on the radio in the morning, Muttons in the Morning (Class 95) are just so silly and fun, and Kiss 92 is rather spontaneous too. When I’m in a more somber mood, I turn to 93.8 for the news and to pray for events happening around the world (Yes I do!). Then there’s BBC for the occasional cool snippet of info. I even tune into 95.8 during some evenings when I’m in the mood to try to improve my conversational Chinese. Incidentally, Ling Lin Zhi, the fluent radio presenter/producer was my classmate in lower secondary school. I’m embarrassed to say this but I can understand only about 50% of what she says on radio.

Back to that morning, I toggled over to Symphony 92.4 where they were playing Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from the Sleeping Beauty. I kept the channel there because I enjoyed that piece and was thinking back to the documentary called “The Children from Theatre Street” that my dad played on video regularly during my childhood. This Waltz was the background music for the introduction of this documentary. I just surfed the web and I found the entire 90min documentary in youtube in its entirety, with Grace Kelly as the host of the documentary! I’ve stuck it here for you to watch if you have 90 minutes to spare.  I must have watched this documentary hundreds of times in my childhood! Just then, as the music drew to its crescendo moment, my dad started to motion to the helper, pointing to the radio. He kept pointing said “Nice music. Ballet.” We were surprised. I tuned up the volume of the radio and we listened to the rest of the piece in our journey.

The same week, when my dad was in the car, I tuned into BBC and they were broadcasting a short clip on Eleanor Roosevelt. Would you believe my dad kept pointing to the radio and making gestures to the helper again? It was then that I realised that even though my dad could not speak coherently, there were still some memories floating around in his brain. I wondered if there were other ways to surface more of those memories, which might perhaps make him happier?

So what I did over the next couple of weeks was to play the entire Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister series on audio clips for my dad.

I have been subscribing to since 2009 when I started driving daily. Since then I have listened to over 100 books while on the road. I downloaded this comedy series some time back because I used to enjoy it when I was young. Each episode is about 25 min, about the time it takes for me to drive my dad to or fro from the centre. So, over the past two months, my dad has finished the entire series of 18 hours 30 min of this comedy series that used to tickle him to bits during my childhood. In the car, while listening, he would even smile and laugh during the funny bits and at other times would gesticulate to us to get us to pay attention and listen. The car rides of the past two months have been quite pleasant and I am glad to know that I may have brought some simple joy to my dad as his memories and thoughts slowly fade away.

Next, I plan to play some of the music he often played when I was young, from Nat King Cole, Evita (Andrew Lloyd Weber) and Beethoven’s 5th symphony and see if my dad responds positively.

I write to encourage you if your loved one has dementia and seems frustrated that he/she cannot carry a normal conversation with you. I hope this has helped you with perhaps one more way of entertaining your loved one.


Psalms 106:4
Remember me, O LORD, in Your favour toward Your people;
Visit me with Your salvation.