Ex-PM Pak Lah fights dementia

PETALING JAYA: Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi no longer remembers the names of his family members as dementia has robbed him of his cognitive function, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

“He doesn’t remember my name or even my wife’s name. The only reason I know that he recognises me is because there is a flicker in his eyes when I come to visit him,” said Khairy of the former prime minister who is his father-in-law.

“Dementia is a very, very cruel condition because the body is there but the mind isn’t.”

Khairy shared that the family decided to be open about it to shine a light on dementia and cognitive impairment.

He revealed the condition of Abdullah, fondly known as Pak Lah, after launching the Malaysian Conference of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) on the Management of Dementia (Third Edition) and CPG on the Management of Schizophrenia (Second Edition).

He told Bernama that Pak Lah’s condition is deteriorating and while he may recognise family members, he has reached the stage where speaking is difficult.

“I’ve seen my father-in-law deteriorating over the years, so you don’t see him in public anymore as the dementia has deteriorated to the point where he cannot function normally anymore.”

He also spoke about the challenges of caring for such a patient.

“I see how my mother-in-law struggles,” said Khairy, adding that his father-in-law is wheelchair-bound.

“There are good days, but increasingly, there are more bad days,” he said.

He acknowledged that the family was fortunate to get professional caregivers “as those with deteriorating dementia need constant round-the-clock care for their own safety”.

Abdullah, 82, retired in 2009 after serving six years as prime minister.

He also said that the government is set to invest more in public social care to support underprivileged families with dementia patients.

In a series of tweets later, Khairy said the ministry would make a strong case for more investment in publicly-funded social care to look after such patients who do not have the means to do so.

He said this was part of strengthening community-based care under the Health White Paper.

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