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She wanted to end her life due to health and financial burdens

Mdm Yap did not have any family and friends who can support her, and she did not know how to go about seeking help.
Mdm Yap did not have any family and friends who can support her, and she did not know how to go about seeking help. (Photo by Steven HWG on Unsplash)

When Mdm Yap suffered a stroke at 66 years old, she lost her job as a cleaner. Without her income, she felt extremely helpless. The sudden deterioration of health and financial burdens were too overwhelming to bear that she wanted to end her life. As a quiet and reserved person who did not like to socialise, Mdm Yap did not have any family and friends who can support her, and she did not know how to go about seeking help.

Mdm Yap was referred to O’Joy for suicide ideation. She lost a lot of her independence due to the stroke, and this made her very angry with herself and the situation. Mdm Yap grew up in an estranged family, whom she had lost contact with. All her siblings had since passed away and Mdm Yap lived alone in a rented flat. She relied on the quarterly silver support scheme and her limited CPF for income.

When Poh Yee, O’Joy social worker, visited Mdm Yap, she found the senior to be a very well-mannered and endearing old lady. Despite her dishevelled looks, she was always polite and appreciative and insisted on paying for the meals that Poh Yee or the volunteer bought for her.

Poh Yee helped to link Mdm Yap with the various social services and financial aid that were available, such as Medifund and NTUC vouchers. This resolved Mdm Yap’s financial worries.

Via the HDB EASE program, grab bars were installed in her flat to reduce her risks of falling. Mdm Yap was delighted with this as it enabled her to continue living safely in the community. She had great resistance about admission to a nursing home as she did not want to lose her freedom.

Poh Yee also helped to arrange Mdm Yap’s medical appointments and medical escorts, accompanying her on several occasions to speak with the doctors and to educate Mdm Yap about her medical conditions and the importance of compliance. Home medical care was arranged to pack her medication so that she would not miss a dose or mix them up. At one point when Mdm Yap developed muscle rigidity, Poh Yee accompanied her to A&E, and was by her side through admission and discharge.

Mdm Yap’s hope is to return to work. She would walk around her neighbourhood every day for rehabilitation. However, due to her awkward gait post-stroke, her efforts were often met with unkind and discouraging remarks from her neighbours telling her that she would never recover. She would share with Poh Yee that this was demoralising but nonetheless continued in determination with acupuncture and rehabilitation.

Poh Yee supported Mdm Yap with counselling to reinforce her self-worth and will to live. Gradually Mdm Yap developed trust in her social worker. To meet her social needs, a volunteer para-counsellor was arranged to visit Mdm Yap every month to chat with her and to check on her wellbeing.

“My wish is to ride on the MRT”.

Mdm Yap had a wish so simple. Yet she never got to fulfil it. Often a trip will be planned but could not be carried out because of unexpected medical issues.

Mdm Yap continued to live in the community with the combined support of her social worker and para-counsellor for more than 2 years. However, she began to show signs of cognitive decline. She started calling O’Joy office several times a day asking the same question. Her speech became incoherent. One day when Poh Yee visited her, Mdm Yap smelled of urine and had forgotten how to dress herself. She became disoriented and forgot where she lived. It was no longer safe for her to live in the community. Poh Yee took her to the hospital immediately where she was later assessed to have lack of mental capacity. Eventually, Mdm Yap had to be admitted into a nursing home.

O’Joy served Mdm Yap for a total of 3 years. Serving the elderly especially those with dementia is often a long-drawn process. It can also be painful to watch our client deteriorate. However, the fundamental in O’Joy’s service is never to turn our client away until their needs are met and that they are in good care.

Funding for our services is sometimes volatile. O’Joy always serves our clients regardless of the available funding. Therefore, we are always in need of independent donations to sustain our services. You can help single elderly like Mdm Yap who lives alone with dementia to continue living in the community for as long as their condition can allow them to, via care management provided by O’Joy. Click here to support Services for Older Persons now.

Names have been changed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the client.


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