Caption: Social workers from TOUCH Cluster Support
From entering a home that smelt like rotten eggs to seeing a blackened wall filled with beg bugs, Ms Lai Yen Hoon, senior social worker, TOUCH Cluster Support (TCLS), Kallang and TOUCH Senior Group Home, has experienced them all. Supported by a team of six social workers to help vulnerable seniors with little or no caregiver support, TCLS was set up in 2015 following the appointment of TOUCH Community Services by the Ministry of Social and Family Development as a Senior Cluster Network operator to better coordinate community support resources.
“It is daunting for an elderly or caregiver to navigate the social and healthcare system as they are preoccupied with their medical ailments or caregiving duties. Searching for help is probably the last thing on their mind. TOUCH Cluster Support acts as a one-stop service point where our social workers assess the holistic needs of our seniors and their caregivers and journey with them. As trained professionals, we work with other service providers to recommend practical solutions, keep track of cases and help seniors improve their quality of life by providing psychosocial support,” said Ms Lai.
Ms Lai cited an example of a case involving Mdm Ong, 86, a public assistance recipient, who had difficulties coping in her new home, which she shared with her flat mate after her husband passed on. A stroke left her unable to speak and swallow food. She also suffers from a motor neuron disease, leaving her prone to falls. The social worker could only point to pictures to communicate with her. After paying Mdm Ong a visit to assess her needs, TOUCH Home Care was then roped in to keep her home clean and provide meals and transport for medical appointments. Her home was also retrofitted to make it safer and she was taught exercises to improve her mobility.
“We did what we could for Mdm Ong before she had to be admitted to a nursing home after her medical condition deteriorated. We are glad she was able to take away with her fond memories of her recent outings to the River Safari and Chinatown,” said Ms Lai.
Another case involved Mdm Tan, 70, who was referred to TCLS. She lives with her elder son who has intellectual disability. Her younger son, the sole caregiver, works long hours and finds it stressful to bathe both his mother and brother every day.
“Once, I had to change her diaper which was overflowing with feaces and urine. Feeling agitated, Mdm Tan would shout. Her older son was also peeing all over the floor and his mattress was soaking with urine with maggots crawling around,” said Ms Poh Siew Wah, TCLS (Yishun) social worker attached to the case.
For Mdm Tan’s case, TCLS worked with various service providers including the medical social worker to provide transitional care from hospital to home; TOUCH Caregivers Support to install a ramp at the three-step entrance to make it safer for Mdm Tan to be wheeled in and out of her home; Social Service [email protected] for financial assistance; and NTUC Healthcare for personal hygiene and housekeeping services.
“Thanks to the collective effort by all parties involved, Mdm Tan is physically fitter and she no longer shouts. Her home is also cleaner and she now bathes regularly,” added Ms Poh.
“From the cases we have handled it is clear many seniors are socially isolated. Some may have estranged relationships with family members even though they live under the same roof. While we can counsel them, we need to look for practical solutions, such as referring them to counsellors from family service centres, especially for unresolved disputes or connecting them with volunteers or befrienders,” said Ms Lai.
“This is the least we can do for our seniors – to give them the dignity they deserve as they enter the last chapter of their life. We cannot be there to solve all their problems – but we can show them we care by being there for them when they need help,” Ms Lai added.
TCLS runs two teams to cover the Kallang-Novena and Yishun-Sembawang regions, and manages three senior activity centres and a senior group home.
For more information on our services, please call 6352 0277 @TOUCH Cluster Support (Kallang) or 6481 5031 @TOUCH Cluster Support (Yishun) or email [email protected].