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Knitting the care network with the person in mind

Elderly lady sitting by herself
She was once young and crazy. (Photo by Jason Lam on Unsplash)

“She was once young and crazy, so don’t stereotype our elderly.” This is what our volunteer para-counsellor Jenny remembers of Mdm Leng. Not with a bad connotation, although Jenny declines to share the crazy things that young Mdm Leng had done. Let’s not forget that we have once been young, fearless and adventure-loving.

The person behind the condition

It seems that Mdm Leng, 83, had a wonderful life. But now she has dementia and cannot remember much details. She was a school teacher and then a clinic nurse and retired in her fifties. Jenny describes her as a very graceful and compassionate old lady. For many years, Mdm Leng was very independent and took care of herself.

Apparently, she had great foresight. Sensing that her own declining memory and health, Mdm Leng became worried about her future care. She took the initiative to contact O’Joy for help, although she rang O’Joy many times in the same week repeating the same request, seemingly to have forgotten that she had called before.

When O’Joy counsellor Fiona visited Mdm Leng, she found that the old lady had amassed a clutter of medications, many of which had expired. Mdm Leng could not remember if she had taken her dose for the day and was also unsure if she had eaten her meals.

Mdm Leng has a younger brother who is nonetheless also elderly and has several ailments of his own. He is not suitable to be a full-time carer for Mdm Leng, albeit his concern for his sister.

Knitting the care network with the person in mind

Fiona worked quickly to link Mdm Leng with various community services to ensure that she can continue to live safely within the community – Meals on Wheels to ensure that the old lady eats proper meals every day, Day Care Centre for social activities and to administer her weekday medications, and Home Help to keep her unit clean.

To ensure the safety of the senior at home, Fiona arranged for subsidised Wi-Fi and IP cameras to be installed at Mdm Leng’s home, so that her safety can be monitored by her brother and two friends. Fiona also put up posters in large print all over Mdm Leng’s unit as prompters to remind her of daily activities, such as eating and showering.

As Mdm Leng is a very jovial and sociable person, Fiona arranged volunteer para-counsellor Jenny to visit her regularly. Mdm Leng and Jenny would chat and sing oldies together, which the old lady enjoyed a lot. Over a period of 2-3 years, they developed a close relationship. Sometimes Mdm Leng would buy some food to share when she expects Jenny to visit. More importantly, Jenny keeps check on Mdm Leng’s wellbeing to report to the counsellor when there are any abnormalities. Sometimes Jenny reports that Mdm Leng had burnt herself while cooking or that she had forgotten to shower.

Early this year, Jenny discovered that the old lady could not walk. Mdm Leng was immediately admitted to the hospital where it was assessed that she can no longer live safely at home. She was eventually admitted to a nursing home where she is now under good care.

We wouldn’t have managed without you

Mdm Leng’s brother describes O’Joy’s service as “fantastic and heart-warming”. In his own words, “old people do not know which departments to go to”. He is grateful that Fiona has facilitated the service linkages to allow his sister to live safely at home for as long as possible. He expressed that his sister and himself would not have managed without Fiona’s attentive care to details and intricate arrangements.

It takes a village to help an elderly

On reflection, O’Joy counsellor Fiona stresses the importance of a network of community support when caring for the elderly. A lot of services are required to support an elderly, as most often than not, the spouse or siblings would be equally elderly and powerless. Without adequate support, the elderly are likely to suffer more rapid decline. At the early stages of dementia when the elderly still have insight and ability to make decisions, it is important to respect their wishes and allow them the dignity and quality of life while ensuring their safety when living in the community.


O’Joy’s Services for Older Persons provides professional counselling for our vulnerable seniors to improve their mental wellbeing, and also case management services to connect them to available community resources so that they can enjoy their golden years safely and happily.

You can join us in helping vulnerable elderly like Mdm Leng by donating to our services and programs, or by volunteering as a para-counsellor. We bring oceans of joy to those we serve.

* The names and photo have been changed to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the client and volunteer.


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