The Care Journal : Happier with Care Close to Home

Ageing in Place

Happier with Care Close to Home

Seeing Mr Tay Mui Tong going about helping out at the AWWA Senior Activity Centre or waving to friends who pass by, it is hard to imagine him as someone who picks fights with those around him.

Up till about two years ago, whenever he felt upset or frustrated, Mr Tay would turn to drinking, and get into arguments and fights when he was drunk. Things took a turn in 2016, when Mr Tay sought medical help after feeling bouts of pain in his heart. Doctors discovered a tear in this vital organ – a result of excessive drinking. “I was very scared,” confided the 66-year-old in Mandarin. “I don’t like surgeries. I had a glaucoma operation on my left eye a few years ago and I was already very afraid. If I have to go for surgery this time, it would be a heart surgery!” Mr Tay shuddered just thinking about it.

Mr Tay stays in a rental block served by an AWWA Senior Activity Centre implementing the Temasek Foundation Cares – Care Close to Home programme. A pilot programme that ran from 2014 to 2018, Care Close to Home was a partnership between the Agency for Integrated Care, AWWA Senior Activity Centre and Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizen Consultative Committee to support vulnerable seniors who live in four rental blocks in Ang Mo Kio and Kreta Ayer under a new care model. Over three years, the programme provided case management and personal care services to a total of 947 vulnerable seniors so that they can age well in their communities. Mr Tay is one of the direct beneficiaries of the care and support given by an AWWA care team.

Betsy Lim (below left) is the health care aide for Mr Tay. “At first, he didn’t want to listen to the advice of his doctors and the care team to stop drinking,” explained Betsy. “And when he drinks, it changes him as a person”.

Health Care Aide Betsy Lim, with Mr Tay Mui Tong

To help him manage his heart condition, the care team would remind Mr Tay to take his medication, and a medical escort would accompany him for his monthly medical appointments. With positive reinforcements and support, and the fear for his health condition, Mr Tay stopped his drinking habit for the last two years.

Nonetheless, when we met the feisty senior, he admitted that he relapsed a week ago. “I felt sick after drinking,” he said. He was visibly frustrated at himself.

But he managed a smile when AWWA Social Worker Norshaqilah caringly chimed in: “So Uncle, remember not to drink again, ok?”

Needs of seniors

Many seniors like Mr Tay have chronic medical conditions and are in need of health, social, emotional support, including daily personal care services as they age in their communities.

Under the Care Close to Home programme, a comprehensive array of support is available for seniors. A team of care professionals build rapport with each senior under their charge, understand their social and health conditions, and draw up individualised care plans for them. This includes the provision of basic nursing services like blood pressure, blood glucose and weight monitoring, medical escort, exercises and mind stimulation activities, and running simple errands such as buying groceries and delivering meals. For seniors who require more assistance in daily living, the care team could provide personal care services such as taking care of their personal hygiene, feeding, housekeeping or helping with their laundry.

From the pilot programme, the categories of personal care services required by most enrolled seniors were basic nursing, followed by simple errands.

Such care support is especially effective for seniors with mental health challenges; with constant reminders and engagement, including accompanying them for medical follow-ups, health care aides were able to help some seniors follow-up with their medications and check-ups. As a result, these seniors have fewer relapses.

Balm for the heart

Beyond medical support and day-to-day functions, care teams also look into social and psychological support for the seniors, for instance, coaxing socially-isolated seniors out of their homes through activities and outings.

The care team at AWWA was determined to help with Mr Tay's drinking problem. Realising that he needed to be meaningfully occupied and have a greater sense of empowerment, they asked him to help out with simple tasks at the senior activity centre. Soon, he was setting tables and chairs, organising the storeroom and making breakfast for other seniors.

Setting up tables and chairs so that others can gather at the senior activity centre

Mr Tay takes pride in doing his tasks well. “I like to work,” he said. “I take my work seriously. I used to get praises from my bosses at work. Time passes very fast when there are things to do,” he shared.

The care team noticed the change in him too. “He can be very diligent when he set his heart on doing something. He likes to work with his hands, so he is definitely happier now,” Betsy said. “Even when things at home troubled him, he doesn't keep it in his heart. He would come down to the centre and talk to us instead, or chit-chat with friends.”

“We are really happy to see him happier,” said Betsy.

Mr Wang Seng Weng was another senior who has benefitted from the programme.

Read his story here: