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Befriendee-turned-befriender helps fellow residents

Elderly Group

Befriendee-turned-befriender helps fellow residents
Caption: Jennifer (middle) with the Yip sisters

Mdm Jennifer Wong, 68, knows how it feels like to be struggling alone. Battling a bad bout of eczema and a series of panic attacks, her condition had started to worsen in recent years, leaving her helpless as rashes covered her body.

Said the retired church clerk who lives alone in her three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio, “My body was itching all over and I felt emotionally drained. I did not have anyone to turn to. I could not approach any of my neighbours as I speak mainly English.”

She then started to take part in the exercise sessions conducted by TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) at the void deck of her neighbouring block. It was a positive experience for her physically and mentally as she bonded well with other residents who shared similar interests.

TCG staff also befriended Jennifer to find out more about her needs. She was then put on TOUCH Home Care’s Community Befriending Programme where she was paired with a befriender who gave her psychosocial support.

“It is really nice to know there is someone out there who cares for me. My befriender would text or call me too so I do not feel so alone. Sometimes, we would have breakfast and lunch together, “said Jennifer. The support was timely as Jennifer was in and out of the hospital and needed some encouragement.

With all the support received, Jennifer was able to get back on her feet two months ago and felt ready to help other seniors like her by becoming a befriender. She was then paired with the two Yip sisters who stay at the next block - Mdm Yip Tuck Heng, 84 who has glaucoma and Mdm Yip Ying Heng, 86, who suffers from dementia.  Jennifer sings songs, does art and craft activities and visits the sisters regularly. She is also able to converse with them comfortably in Cantonese.

“I was encouraged to see them responding so well to my activities, such as colouring and folding boxes from magazines. I had gone to the library to do research on some simple activities that will help stimulate memory and brain function. When I was told that their sleeping has since improved, I was happy. These elderly are lonely and need company,” said Jennifer.

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Caption: Mdm Yip Ying Heng (right) enjoying an art and craft activity with Jennifer (left)

To prepare Jennifer for her befriending role, she was trained by THC’s coaches on communication skills and things to look out for during home visits, such as observing the elderly’s living environment, emotional state and relationship with family members.

“I have learnt to be observant. As befrienders, we are the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground. The help that we provide can impact the elderly’s quality of life,” said Jennifer.

The Yip sisters now have something to look forward to as they spend their time meaningfully instead of retreating to the room to sleep the entire day or staring blankly at the television. Jennifer would also meet the sisters downstairs when they go for their daily walks.

If you are 50 years and above with a heart to serve the seniors we invite you to join us as a befriender. Come and be trained, and enjoy the rewards of uplifting someone emotionally as you help them age well at home and in the community. Call 6804 6565 or email [email protected].