Caption: Mr Loh all set and ready to visit his wife in the nursing home
Mr Loh Yew Kim, 77, spent a large part of his life as a welder; melting and fusing metal parts into one sturdy piece. Despite suffering from hypertension and osteoarthritis which causes pain each time he walks, Mr Loh’s steely and unbreakable spirit saw him through his role as the sole caregiver to his wife, Mdm Ng Gun Yok, 78, and as her faithful companion when she went to a nursing home.
Married more than 40 years ago, Mr Loh and Mdm Ng have been inseparable. Preferring to stay indoors, they spend their time cooking meals for each other, buying groceries and sitting side by side chatting and watching their favourite Chinese drama.
“My wife loves to cook. She would boil my favourite herbal soup for many hours until the flavours are nicely blended.” Said Mr Loh smiling shyly.
Mr Loh’s caregiving journey started in 2012 when Mdm Ng had a fall. At that time, Mdm Ng was still independent and could stand and walk short distances with the help of a walking frame. However, another fall in 2015 severely affected her mobility, confining her to her wheelchair. Mr Loh had to take over all household tasks and prepare her meals. That year, Mr Loh was referred to TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) to see how his wife can be further supported at home.
TCG’s occupational therapist visited the couple to assess their needs and propose changes to make the home safer. The therapist coordinated the installation of a customised aluminium ramp to replace the three-step entrance and sourced for financial support for a lightweight wheelchair for Mdm Ng. The kitchen entrance was also levelled to reduce falls risks.
Caption: THC’s Senior Occupational Therapist (right) assessed the home environment to make it safer for Mr Loh (left) and Mdm Ng (middle). In recognition of his outstanding caregiver role, Mr Loh was awarded the Healthcare Humanity Award 2016 (caregiver category).
Some days, Mdm Ng would feel disheartened, especially when she had to be hospitalised for a prolonged period due to her declining physical state. Mr Loh would travel to the hospital every day just to be by her side. One day, Mr Loh was told his wife has gastric cancer. He was devastated. “I could not believe the news. I don’t know what will happen to my wife but I must be strong for her,” said Mr Loh.
TCG aides who had kept in touch with Mr Loh visited the couple to re-assess their needs. As Mdm Ng could no longer eat, feed or dress herself, personal hygiene services by TOUCH Home Care (THC) were recommended. However, Mr Loh’s stress mounted as Mdm Ng would wake him up several times at night to attend to her needs, leaving him frustrated and exhausted.
When Mdm Ng was hospitalised again, the TCG staff worked with the medical social worker on her care plan. It took some persuasion to help Mdm Ng understand the various care options and risks involved if she were to return home. She was relieved to know that Mr Loh would still be able to visit her every day if she had to stay in a nursing home. It was not an easy decision for Mr Loh too as he was plagued by guilt for not fulfilling his caregiver role and his duty as her husband.
“We have been together for so many years. We went through so much hardship. My wife is so much a part of my life. So it is not easy for me to look her in the eye and tell her she needs to go to a nursing home because I cannot cope with her demands – but I know this is the best option for the both of us,” said Mr Loh as his eyes welled up with tears.
The TCG staff also spoke to the couple separately to address their concerns. Finally, Mdm Ng agreed to be admitted to a nursing home where she can receive the help she needs.
Since then, distance has not kept the couple a part. Rain or shine, Mr Loh would visit his wife daily at the nursing home. His daily trek is not without obstacles. Despite feeling constant pain in his knees when manoeuvring up the steep hospital slopes, Mr Loh would faithfully make that 1½ hour journey from Ang Mo Kio to Novena by public transport – every day – carrying his wife’s favourite hawker food or his freshly cooked vegetable and braised mushroom dish or herbal soup for her to savour. THC’s occupational therapist then worked with Mr Loh to ease his travelling challenges, including prescribing a motorised wheelchair, sourcing for funding and training him to use it safely.
“I feel so happy I can move around independently with my motorised scooter, especially for long distances. I do not feel so breathless. The bus drivers have also been helpful and patient as I board the bus with my scooter. The time taken to get to the nursing home is also shorter now,” said a beaming Mr Loh.
These days, Mr Loh keeps himself active by exercising together with other residents at the void deck of his neighbouring block in Ang Mo Kio. Organised by TCG as part of its Community Enablement Project, Mr Loh has also started to socialise with other residents and reach out to those in need. He is happy with his new daily routine of keeping fit as well as visiting his wife in the nursing home.
Caption: Mr Loh keeping fit with fellow residents in an Ang Mo Kio precinct
“I think this arrangement has worked out well. I can see my wife every day, meet friends and do things I enjoy in my neighbourhood. When the nursing home relocates to Ang Mo Kio this month, it will be better. I intend to bring my wife to visit her old friends in the neighbourhood,” added Mr Loh looking hopeful.
For more information on our home modification or therapy programmes, please call Care Line at 6804 6555 or email [email protected].