Please Remember Me
Impact campaign support
Fang, Alzheimer patient for eight years, has forgotten everyone except for her husband Feng. An old Chinese saying goes, “Hold his hand to grow old together.” Please Remember Me follows the old couple in Shanghai over their final years as they fight for the failing physical health and memory loss, while celebrating a life-long memory of love and elegance.
[Shanghai, China] Every day, people see 86 years old Feng and 85 years old Fang going out hand in hand to practice Tai Chi and to dine at a nearby canteen. He calls her baby girl and she calls him Mr. Silly. Hardly could anybody tell that Fang has had Alzheimer’s disease for almost 10 years. She has forgotten almost everyone except for Feng, but she firmly believes that he is the one she is going to spend the rest of her life with. He dresses her, brushes her teeth and bathes her. “You just follow me till the end,” Feng says. By 2013, there are more than 200 million people at or over 60 years old in China. Its impact brings unprecedented challenges in health care, social welfare systems and a change of fundamental family values.
Among all the social issues implicated by the aging population of China, those families with Alzheimer’s or dementia patients suffer among the most. In Chinese, the Alzheimer’s disease is literally translated as “an old retard”. Many families are ashamed to admit that their elders have such a disease. Under such circumstances, most dementia patients live “socially invisible” without being properly treated and professionally cared.
Feng met Fang at his sister’s wedding in the 1950s. Fang became infatuated with him at first sight, but Feng was engaged and later married to Suqin with two children. The 1960s was the darkest time in Feng’s life: within two years he lost his wife to intestine cancer and his daughter to a heart disease. At 42 Fang was still single. They quickly fell in love and built a new family. Little did they know that after growing up with the 16 years of Sino-Japanese War and the Civil War, they had to suffer through the Cultural Revolution. Feng was denounced as traitor and anti-revolutionist. In the years when many divorced their spouses in order for self-protection, Fang chose to stick by him. She begged everyone to prove his innocence and finally brought him back home.
Despite of all the turmoil, they never stop pursuing living a dignified and sophisticated life. Feng was born in a Confucian family which demanded every boy to be an expert in poetry and painting; Fang’s father provided her education and taught her to be independent in a time when most girls were illiterate. Till this day, she recalls nothing but repeatedly tells him how proud she was as a female school principal; He still takes her to see Peking Opera and reads her poems. They love tasting the elegance and freedom in every bit of life together. But his health declines too. One day Feng has pneumonia and needs to be hospitalized. Since their only child, from Feng’s first marriage, lives abroad and seldom comes home, Feng starts to consider a senior center for them. He finds most senior centers providing a couple with a room of only 200 square feet and confines them from going out.
After much struggles, Feng still decides to give it a try. Fang becomes completely disoriented and irritable. She cries to go home every minute. Seeing the other old people doing nothing but sitting in the sun whole day long, Feng also feels stuck. “We’ll have to settle here one day we can’t move hands and legs. But we still enjoy our freedom, why do we have to live like this, waiting for death to come?” he sighs. Only after three days, the couple returns home. At the Chinese New Year of 2013, Feng wrote a couplet in beautiful calligraphy which says, “Firecrackers take us on a new glorious path and a Chinese dream must come true in the year of Snake.” But in reality, life becomes grimmer. Not long after, Fang starts forgetting going to the bathrooms.
There was once Feng had to take her off the bus on the way to the hospital, and cleaned her in a public toilet for two hours. It is becoming almost impossible for him to leave her home alone for even half an hour. She would for example try to boil some hot water but forgets to turn off the stove, and almost got the house burned once. In July, 2013, Feng was diagnosed with a pancreas mass. The man who went through a life of hardship with an upbeat spirit finally burst into tears. Before going to the hospital for a further checkup, he takes her out to shop for clothing and makes her pretty. Does it mean their time of separation is coming near? Can they still live a life with dignity and freedom? On the way home, they walk hand in hand as Fang murmurs like she always does, “We are together no matter what. That’s what a family does.”
Outreach Work Supported
Pilot programme in Shanghai neighbourhoods around caring for the elderly in the community.