Dementia could be debilitating for both the afflicted and their caregivers, but the son of an 81-year-old woman has figured out a way to lighten up his mother’s life by “buying off” the owners of the shops she frequents to make her feel popular and welcome.
The mother, who was diagnosed with dementia three years ago, showed up at the outpatient clinic of Chung Shan Medical University Hospital neurologist Chou Hsi-hsien (周希諴) on Sept. 24, looking unusually cheerful and chirpy, a report by the Chinese-language Apple Daily said.
“People are so nice to me these days, offering me free stuff and everything,” Chou quoted the old lady as saying.
“It must be because you are way too adorable,” a nurse at the hospital said.
“I’m telling you, they even offer me free hairwashes,” the old lady was quoted as saying, with a smile of contentment on her face.
The lady’s 50-odd-year-old son, surnamed Hsieh (謝), then told Chou in private that the shop clerks were giving away “free stuff” to his mother only because he had paid them in advance to cover all her expenses.
“My mother has lost her concept of money after coming down with dementia and can no longer differentiate between NT$100 and NT$1,000 bills. She got really upset about it and often blamed herself for being so useless. She even refused to go outside,” Hsieh said.
Hsieh said his mother had gone missing three times since being diagnosed with dementia and was only able to find her way home thanks to the assistance of kind strangers who took her to the nearest police station.
However, Hsieh’s mother has not gone missing again since about a year ago, when Hsieh began making advance payments to a breakfast shop and a hair salon near his home in Greater Taichung that his mother frequents.
“I have also asked these stores to play along and tell my mother each time they see her: ‘You are such a nice old lady, so everything you have is on the house,’” Hsieh said, adding that he was only doing what a son should do and that he was willing to do everything, regardless of how hard it might be, to keep his mother safe and healthy.
Chou said as dementia patients are prone to self-isolation, their family should create opportunities for them to have more face-to-face interactions with others, which could delay the onset of some symptoms.