Caption: A radiant Maureen enjoying the outdoors
“Anything that can help me gain back what I have lost, I will try. This extra support from TOUCH can slowly build my confidence. I may not walk or run very fast but at least I am not going downhill.”
Mdm Maureen Lee may be a nonagenarian, but she can remember effortlessly the names of new friends she met a few weeks ago. The 91-year-old also has her week’s schedule at the back of her mind. After leaving her secretarial job at 55, Maureen felt restless and went on to work part-time in the same line of work till she finally retired at the age of 78.
Maureen was then living alone in a studio apartment in Bishan. Being a sociable person, she always enjoys the company of friends.
When Marueen was fitter, she used to meet her group of friends from church to sing and play the Ukulele. She also did line dancing regularly at the community centre.
In 2019, her health took a turn when she fell from her bed and could not get up. She had to glide on her back all the way from her bedroom to the living room to call the ambulance. After her discharge from the hospital, Maureen felt lost and anxious.
“I have difficulty standing up and my knees hurt. My legs also feel weak. I am afraid of falling. What if I fall again? How do I manage my daily activities without any help?” said Maureen.
To address her needs, TOUCH Home Care (THC) helped to keep her home clean and arranged for meals to be delivered during the pandemic. THC’s occupational therapist also assessed her home environment and explored with her solutions to improve safety. For example, grabs bars, a bedrail and a shower chair were introduced to reduce falls risks.
Caption: On the path to recovery
Caption: Physiotherapist Ms Lim Lee Ying (front) working with Maureen (back) to strengthen her leg muscles
Caption: Providing encouragement and support
Impacted by the pandemic
However, just when Maureen was showing good progress, the pandemic situation worsened in 2021 and she remained mostly indoors. Gradually, Maureen started losing muscle strength. Thankfully, in the second half of 2022, with the further easing of safe management measures, Maureen felt hopeful and was eager to meet her friends again.
It was during this time that Maureen came to know about TOUCH Community Services' new initiative - the Reablement Programme - supported by the Tote Board Community Health Fund. This programme initiates a new care approach that empowers seniors to take charge of their health and promotes independence and autonomy. Supported by care professionals, seniors receive personalised coaching and training to increase their ability and confidence to age well, and age-in-place.
“When I heard of what TOUCH can do for me, I was thrilled! Anything that can help me gain back what I have lost, I will try. I knew I had to do something about my condition as I was not active during the pandemic, said Maureen. “This extra support from TOUCH can slowly build my confidence. There’s no fear in me because I am being trained. I may not walk or run very fast but at least I am not going downhill.”
Maureen was supported by a dedicated team of an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist led by a Reablement care coordinator from August to November 2022. The team worked with Maureen to identify her motivations and wishes. They also coached and tracked her progress, built her support network and enabled her to navigate safely beyond her neighbourhood.
Caption: Maureen (left) with THC’s reablement coordinator Ms Kelly Chaw (right)
The Reablement team also trained Maureen’s new domestic helper on how to navigate the hospital system. With increased confidence, Maureen no longer needs to rely on TOUCH for help to accompany her for medical appointments.
Fulfilling her wishes
It was a dream come true on 16 November 2022 for Maureen when she finally took public transport to meet old friends for lunch. She successfully made the journey from her home in Bishan to Bedok.
Caption: Maureen walking independently towards the bus without her rollator
“I’m so happy I get to meet my friends again after missing them for almost three years. We are very good friends and we look after one another. Although I have to travel a distance, I’m glad I can join them for lunch today,” said Maureen.
Throughout the journey, Maureen was able to walk steadily without having to take short breaks to catch her breath for the first time in a long while.
It was an emotional moment for Maureen when she was finally reunited with her friends. The ladies exchanged hugs and fondly called one another by old nicknames. They talked excitedly while walking to the restaurant, just like old times! Maureen and her friends had so much to catch up that they continued with another round of chatting at the coffeeshop next door.
Caption: Maureen (2nd from left) hugs her friend (right) after seeing each other for the first time in years
Caption: Maureen (1st from right) and her friends having lunch at Bedok
“Through Reablement, I feel there is hope. I am not afraid to take the MRT and the bus. After church service, my friends and I will take turns to plan small gatherings. At least, I have something I can look forward to. I can be independent again rather than being stuck at home and too scared to go out!” added Maureen.
Maureen’s next target is to visit Johor Bahru with her friends soon.
“I hope seniors out there do not lose hope. They can still fulfil their wishes and enjoy a better quality of life,” said Maureen.
For more enquiries on TOUCH's Reablement Programme, please call 6661 0829.
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Story published in 2022