Caption: Centre staff Mr Richard Chia (left) engaging in a conversation with Mr Chan (right)
Mr Chan Siew Hock, 68, spends most of his days reminiscing about his past and thinking of his future in his HDB one-room rental flat in Geylang Bahru.
Trained as a chef, Mr Chan followed his friends to Holland to work in a restaurant for three years. He was in his 20s.“Goeie moarn! Hawwe jo iten?” said Mr Chan excitedly. “Do you know what it means? I am greeting you and asking you if you have eaten in the Dutch language,” said Mr Chan with a smile.
After his short work stint in Holland, Mr Chan returned to Singapore where he spent the next two decades working as a chef in a restaurant in Tanjong Pagar. His parents then became ill and passed on.
Mr Chan's life took a sad turn several years ago as he was brushing his teeth. His body suddenly felt weak and he fell to the ground. Thankfully, Mr Richard Chia from TOUCH Senior Activity Centre at Geylang Bahru (currently known as TOUCHpoint@Geylang Bahru) was making his rounds and met another senior, who informed him that her neighbour, Mr Chan, had not been out of his home the whole day. Richard spotted Mr Chan struggling on the floor and quickly rushed him to the hospital.
"It was the lowest point in my life. When I was told I had stroke, I wanted to die. I did not want to stay a single day in the hospital.I wanted to go home badly. Can you imagine how I felt knowing someone had died in the next ward? This will never be my home!," said Mr Chan, his eyes welled up with tears.
Caption: Mr Chan (middle), accompanied by TOUCH staff and befrienders, going to a coffeeshop in the neighbourhood.
Mr Chan was then advised by the hospital medical social worker to get help from TOUCH, which provides home care services to frail seniors living in rental flats with little or no caregiver support. TOUCH aides would help keep his home clean, run errands and engage him in interactive games to keep his mind active. Mr Chan also receives support from TOUCH’s nurses who would help pack his medication.
As Mr Chan was still feeling depressed, he was assigned two befrienders under TSAC’s Seniors Caring for Seniors (SCS) programme – Mr James Tan, 79 and Mdm Helen Ho, 66. The befrienders visit him once a week to chat with him and see how he was getting on.
“In the past, I found it hard to reach out to Mr Chan. He would keep to himself, and appeared
unfriendly and troubled all the time. But gradually, after getting to know us better, he started to talk abit more. That’s a big improvement,” said James.
Caption: Befrienders James (left) and Helen (middle) visiting Mr Chan (right) in his home.
“It is good to see Mr Chan cooking his own meals now. He was happy when I bought him something from my recent holiday in Korea. I can see he now looks forward to our weekly visits,” said Helen.
Mr Chan is also a regular face at the centre for his bi-monthly hair cut by volunteers. He also enjoys his grocery shopping and meal treats sponsored by corporate partners under I-Shop-U-Pay project.
“I will not give up wishing my legs will get better because I still hope to visit Holland again. I do not expect much in life. As long as I can live independently at home, I am contented,” added Mr Chan.
During the pandemic, centre staff and befrienders continued to keep tabs on vulnerable seniors like Mr Chan.