A journey of resilience

A journey of resilience

Caption: Mdm Mariyam regaining her independence and enjoying a better quality of life in her neighbourhood

 "I want to go out, take part in activities and not be stuck at home. I want to make friends like how I used to before I moved to Bendemeer. I want to be able to go to the market by myself."

70-year-old Mdm Mariyam is a left-foot amputee who lives alone in her one-room rental flat in Bendemeer. An uncontrolled gangrene due to diabetes had caused her to face mobility issues in 2022. That year, Mdm Mariyam also experienced two major stressors – moving to a new neighbourhood and mourning the death of her husband.

Mdm Mariyam used to lead an active social life, meeting friends for meals and cooking for others. When walking became a problem, she had to rely solely on her husband Mr Marwan to care for her. Despite his declining health and heart issues, he was still able to buy groceries, settle the bills and bring her for medical appointments in her wheelchair.

Dealing with challenging circumstances
When the couple moved from Bedok to Bendemeer in 2022, they were referred to TOUCH Cluster Support, currently known as TOUCH Community Case Management (TCCM), as they needed more support at home. During this period, Mr Marwan’s health started deteriorating and he was in need of constant care. Mdm Mariyam struggled to cope and felt overwhelmed. To meet the couple’s needs, TOUCH’s social worker coordinated with a social service agency to provide help with housekeeping, running errands and going for medical appointments.

“I used to fall so many times outside. I got so scared I was even afraid of stepping out of my home.  Someone needs to be with me all the time. My doctor told me my legs are weak and shaky, and it is easy for me to lose my balance. So I must be careful,” says Mdm Mariyam.

Caption: TOUCH’s senior social worker Mr John Koh (right) provided follow up support, and worked with Mdm Mariyam (left) on her care needs and aspirations

Sadly, not long after, Mr Marwan suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep. His sudden death left Mdm Mariyam feeling confused and helpless. She had depended on her husband all her life. She was now left alone. It did not help that Mdm Mariyam did not have any friends then, causing her to feel more fearful and anxious.

Fulfilling wishes
The TCCM team then reached out to Mdm Mariyam to comfort and encourage her. She expressed her desire to get stronger so that she can be independent again and occupy her time meaningfully. After being introduced to the TCCM team, Mdm Mariyam came to know of TOUCH’s Reablement Programme, a care approach that helps seniors feel more in control, gain independence and build meaningful relationships. Funded by the Tote Board Community Health Fund, the 12-week home-based intervention programme is supported by TOUCH’s care professionals.

The Reablement team first worked with Mdm Mariyam to apply for Housing Development Board’s Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) scheme to install grab bars to help prevent falls and improve her independence at home.

“When I met the team from TOUCH, I felt there was hope. I was able to share with them what I hope to do with my life now that I am alone. I want to go out, take part in activities and not be stuck at home. I want to make friends like how I used to before I moved to Bendemeer. I want to be able to go to the market by myself,” says Mdm Mariyam.

Caption: Mdm Mariyam feeling empowered and confident

Caption: Mdm Mariyam enjoys cooking for herself and others

Caption: TOUCH’s reablement associate Ms Sim Siew Beng (left) helped Mdm Mariyam (right) find connection and support in the community

Regaining independence
Mdm Mariyam had to overcome significant physical challenges in her recovery as she was homebound for a period. TOUCH’s occupational therapist worked together with her to build up strength and endurance to fulfil her desire of stepping out from the confines of her home to rediscover her neighbourhood. Soon, Mdm Mariyam was able to walk more steadily using a walking frame and move around more confidently.

The Reablement team also worked hard to build her confidence. Step by step, Mdm Mariyam’s small goals were met. They included taking the lift; getting to the market in her wheelchair; attending activities at a nearby active ageing centre; and running errands in her neighbourhood. She was also introduced to a few Malay market stall holders to build her confidence in doing marketing on her own.    

Soon, Mdm Mariyam was able to walk further distances and started joining the active ageing centre near her home. She was able to forge friendships with other seniors as she became more active and sociable.

The activities at the centre are now the highlight of her day. Being in the company of seniors gives Mdm Mariyam immense satisfaction. Her health has also improved and she feels more positive about her future.

Caption: Mdm Mariyam (right) enjoying a lively exchange with a neighbour (left)

“I feel so happy. I have many friends from all races. They will greet me when they see me. My life is no longer boring,” adds Mdm Mariyam.

Story published in 2023