Small steps, big rewards

Small steps, big rewards
Caption: Sam (front row) getting into shape with fellow residents at a void deck in Ang Mo Kio

Mr Sam Stephen, 68, has always enjoyed going to Johor Bahru, Malaysia, for food and shopping - as often as three times a week. So when the retired security guard had a stroke two years ago, his life took a turn.

“I was at my computer at home when it happened. I could not stand and fell to the floor. My hands and legs felt numbed. Thankfully, I managed to crawl and reach out to my handphone on top of a cabinet to call for help,” said Sam.

At the hospital, he was told he had suffered a minor stroke, and would experience weakness on the left side of his body. Sam’s two-month hospital stay left him thinking about his future. “I looked at myself and wondered what would become of me. I could hardly walk. How was I going to take care of myself?” said Sam.

Finding help at home
The hospital’s social worker then referred Sam’s case to the Agency for Integrated Care, who flagged out his case to TOUCH Home Care (THC). When Sam was discharged from the hospital, he was shocked to find bats’ droppings all over his place. His window was left opened that day and the bats had flown in to feast on his banana.

“At that point, I realised I was helpless. You can imagine my relief when I was told there are service providers like TOUCH who can support my needs at home. That made me more determined to get better,” said Sam.

A clear goal in mind
THC’s occupational therapist visited his home to assess his needs and suggested ways to make it safer, such as installing more grab bars. As Sam’s primary goal was to get better faster so he could go out again, the therapist planned a 12-week therapy programme.   Sam also received THC’s housekeeping services to keep his home clean.

Caption: THC’s occupational therapist Ms Koh Wee Xin (left) teaching Sam (right) the correct technique of holding the grab bar

Caption: THC’s physiotherapist Ms Vivian Lim (left) guiding THC client Sam Stephen (right) in an obstacle course at home to improve his balance

Sam was taught how to walk at home using the quad stick. The physiotherapist also put him through an obstacle course where he learnt how to balance himself when negotiating tight spaces, walk in different directions and lift his leg to avoid objects on the floor.

“As Sam tends to gravitate towards his left side of the body, he has to learn how to balance himself when walking across potholes on the ground or as he makes his way around tight spaces in a hawker centre,” said Ms Vivian Lim, THC’s physiotherapist.

He did his exercises faithfully and was soon strong enough to step out of his home. THC’s occupational therapist and physiotherapist taught him how to look out for danger spots around the neighbourhood and nearby malls, identified barrier-free routes, and showed him how to navigate a slope and the correct technique of holding the railings for support.  As he could not balance well, it took an hour instead of his usual five-minute walk for Sam to get to the market using a walker. Sam was then prescribed a rollator and was taught how to use it. The trip was shortened to just 10 minutes.

Caption: THC client Sam (middle) taking a short walk with THC’s therapists in his neighbourhood

Caption: THC’s occupational therapist Ms Koh Wee Xin (left) helping to achieve Sam’s (right) goal of visiting Mustaffa

“His greatest fear then was taking public transport. His weakened muscles meant he needed more strength to tilt his rollator across the MRT platform gap. Sam has responded well to our therapy efforts as he is highly motivated. Keeping him fit will help prevent frailty and enable him to enjoy a better quality of life,” added Ms Lim.

Exercising together with residents
Sam was then invited to attend the strength training sessions conducted by TOUCH Caregivers Support at a void deck near his block as part of its community enablement efforts. There, he befriended other seniors and enjoyed the experience of exercising together with other residents.

“There was no pressure. I could go at my own pace. The music was interesting and sometimes, we even learnt simple dance steps. When I saw other seniors who were on wheelchairs exercising, I felt encouraged. Being able to gather at a place near my home and meet other people makes my life more interesting,” added Sam with a smile.

Caption: Sam (second from right) enjoying a trip to Johor Bahru with fellow residents. 

Caption: Sam (right), coached by THC’s physiotherapist (left), following a recent exercise screening session organised by THC’s rehabilitation department, to further optimise residents’ fitness potential.

Over time, Sam also got to know TOUCH staff better, and was able to share with a fellow elderly resident how TOUCH is able to help frail seniors.  

When asked about his wish in life, he said, “I am so thankful the residents recently accompanied me to Johor Bahru. But I want to strengthen my leg muscles more so I can go up the bus easily. The steps are higher for buses in Malaysia so I need to be careful. I can’t wait to visit my favourite shops and food stalls again. The food is cheap and good, and I can receive lots of free gifts. Who wouldn’t be happy?” said Sam.