Innovation is often overlooked and it can be hard to achieve, as it requires an individual to deviate from certain mindsets, to unlearn or relearn. But Kelvin Lee seems unfazed by this need to adapt and change his practices to address the current environment and needs of elder care.
Kelvin Lee, 49, is a manager at TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG). Besides managing the Caregivers Training and the Safe Home Scheme, he also oversees the TCG Care Line. It is a hotline manned by professional care coordinators for seniors or caregivers who are looking for services or products to help them stay home safely or provide better care. He also oversees the Community Enablement Project (CEP), a pilot programme to help residents of a precinct in Ang Mo Kio stay independent and self-reliant, delaying their admission into a hospital or nursing home so that they can continue to enjoy living at home.
Most of his work exposure has been with not-for-profit organisations in various sectors including crisis relief, community development, vocational education and occupational health and safety. Before his last role with an oil and gas company in Vietnam, Kelvin has lived and worked in Kazakhstan, East Timor and Australia. He and his wife moved back to Singapore to be with his parents and he joined TOUCH Community Services in June 2015 to support and care for the older members of community.
Kelvin found it a truly humbling experience to learn what is important to the older person and how they wanted to be helped. The more he interacted with them, the more he realised a need to better understand how to respect their choices and refer them to the care they preferred.
“An older person in the community wants the same thing I want; to be able to live life the way that gives the most satisfaction and to get the help or support to do that. The best service is the service that they want or ask for!”, says Kelvin.
While working on the CEP, he TCG team struggled to let go of the “professional knows best” approach and listen to residents to develop platforms and services that mattered to the latter. At the start, much time was spent simply getting to know the residents, what they enjoyed or what they wanted help in. This eventually paid off in the positive and sustained responses to the platforms developed; the large turnouts at the exercises twice a week, wellness talks, resident outings and even the community health screenings. Residents increasingly offered their time and services to help out.
Kelvin once heard that “society’s problems requires society to solve” but championing and anchoring this collaborative approach has not been easy. Residents are increasingly retreating into the privacy and security of their homes. A care system that is fragmented and territorial frequently hinders the coordinating of care for the single and vulnerable older person who is growing increasingly frail or isolated.
He feels that TOUCH’s investment in this ground-breaking pilot to help residents stay healthy, be socially engaged and given opportunities to contribute to community is timely and a step towards enabling a community to stay independent, self-reliant and vibrant. The positive responses towards the CEP from resident participants and partner organisations so far are a clear indication.
“We don't know what we don’t know. But when we do, we have to be brave enough to let go of preconceived views or the safer ways of doing things so that we can truly meet needs, now and into the future” says Kelvin.
Despite these challenges, Kelvin is determined to work on providing the best support possible for those who aged in the process of building our nation.
The need to support the increasing number of older people in Singapore is an unrelenting issue and needs to be addressed through fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. While the physical needs of the seniors are met, their dignity and quality of life need to be maintained too.
“I am grateful to be part of a team and organisation that values each individual and that is unafraid to take the less trodden path to help address the nation’s impending challenges from an ageing population.”