PETALING JAYA: Pradeep Balaram was totally unprepared for the drastic changes in his grandmother’s behaviour as she got on in age.
From the loving woman he always knew, she was frequently agitated and her moods became erratic. And while he was familiar with the term dementia, he only started reading up on it after noticing the changes in his grandmother after her diagnosis.
He soon realised that no two dementia patients were alike. While the common symptom is forgetfulness or memory loss, others can include depression, aggressive behaviour and even severe cognitive disorders.
“How does one live with a dementia patient at home? Imagine if you’re working from home, and having to answer an elderly person’s repeated questions? It can be overwhelming and stressful at times,” Pradeep, 39, told FMT.
With his early knowledge of dementia, he began entertaining the idea of running a care home for those diagnosed with it. He envisioned a home equipped with the necessary facilities coupled with fun activities, to keep their bodies and minds active.
However, he got a lukewarm response from his friends when he broached the topic with them. They cited his lack of experience with such patients, and worried that running the home would eat away at all his time.
Opening ‘Golden Roots’
Still, he kept toying with the idea. Then he met businessman Adam Teoh, 48, at a property investment seminar.
“We met for the first time at the seminar and somehow, we both clicked,” he said, adding that Teoh was receptive to the idea of an elderly care home as he too had a family member with dementia.
“It felt like it was fate, because we both didn’t have any experience in eldercare, but felt this calling to open this home to help those with dementia get the care they need,” Pradeep said.
And so, the two scoured for a venue and finally found a bungalow in Petaling Jaya.
With working capital in hand, they refurbished the place, employed caretakers and medical doctors including Pradeep’s father, Dr Balaram, a senior physician to help run the home’s health and medical screening programmes.
In 2020, Golden Roots was finally open for business. Despite the lockdowns imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the duo received their first patient: an elderly man with dementia and eyesight issues.
Teoh recalled standing in once for a caretaker who couldn’t make the night shift. He remembered staying awake all night to keep a close watch on his patient.
“I remember being on the call with Pradeep to make sure I didn’t sleep off as that man is a fall-risk patient, so I had to be alert and make sure he didn’t roam anywhere at night,” Teoh said.
“It was an overwhelming task, something I still remember till today. But I guess that’s the responsibility that one needs to take when opening a care home. You can’t just open a home and expect your workers to run it while you’re supervising from afar,” he said.
To better understand dementia and how to communicate with their patients, the duo joined webinars and signed up for online courses.
And through conversations with industry experts, they soon adapted and created their own activities such as singing, dancing and even ‘mah jong’ for the patients.
“We’re constantly learning about the residents and innovating games and activities so that they feel like this place is like home for them.
“We don’t want them to feel isolated or lost in this place, which is why we want them to be occupied with activities. Our caretakers are always busy with hands-on activities as we want our residents to keep their minds active,” Teoh said.
Teoh has even been cultivating a small patch of land at the back of the garden so that fruits and vegetables can be harvested and cooked for the residents in the home.
As you enter the home, you’ll also spot an indoor garden, created to invoke a sense of calm and peace for the residents.
“It definitely is a calling for the both of us. We both felt this void for the longest time, and we’re glad to give back by having this home,” Teoh said.
For more information on Golden Roots, click here.
Golden Roots Elder Care Centre
No 1, Jalan SS 3/59, SS 3
47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Contact: 016-338 1129