At one of the lowest points in Danny Raven Tan’s life, he brandished a chopper in front of his mother, threatening to kill her.
Of course, he was just trying to scare her but the frustration he was facing was overwhelming. Diagnosed with dementia at 82, Danny’s mother would refuse to eat even though she has yet to consume anything the entire day.
That is just one of the many struggles that Danny faces as a caregiver for a person living with dementia.
“The sad thing about dementia is that there will be a day when you cannot even remember how to swallow,” says Danny with a sad shrug.
In order for his mother to have a renewed purpose, Danny would resort to acting like a child, jumping on her bed in the morning so his mother can exhibit her maternal care for her baby.
“The motherly instinct surfaces and the sick, frail part of her disappears… I believe my mum is inside, somewhere,” Danny looks away, choked with the onset of tears.
Driven by his experiences, the former marketing manager at LASALLE College of the Arts is an ardent advocate for the dementia community. In February 2018, Danny and his friend Daniel Lim, whose father is also diagnosed with dementia, started a social enterprise, Enable Asia.
To educate and generate meaningful conversation about dementia, Enable Asia organises the annual Enabling Festival – a kaleidoscope of multi-disciplinary activities including art, film, design, medical forums and more. The Enabling Festival seeks to enable people with dementia and caregivers to provide them with a better quality and dignified life by understanding how to better deal with their daily struggles. Danny even hopes to incorporate virtual reality technology as a form of treatment to help trigger good memories and positive emotions.
“I believe art has healing and therapeutic effects, especially for people living with dementia who has difficulty expressing with words,” the full-time visual artist affirms with conviction.
Danny and his mum were featured in Channel News Asia’s documentary Facing Dementia in 2016 and the video went viral with four and a half million views. People, especially caregivers from far away countries like Alaska, Tibet and Brazil were writing in to him about their personal struggles with dementia.
“These four and a half million people are walking the similar journey as mine,” Danny emphasises.
Empowered by the international response to this global health issue, Danny continues to stride towards his vision of “a world where dementia is nothing but a distant memory”.