Healthcare workers in S’pore share how they protect the elderly during Covid-19

Taking care of a vulnerable group is no small feat.

Fasiha Nazren | Sponsored | October 04, 2020, 12:27 PM

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, more precautionary measures have been implemented at centres that provide Community Care all over Singapore.

This includes the scaling back of volunteer activities as well as guidelines on face-to-face visitations, which include a cap on the number of visitors nursing home clients are permitted in a day.

With these measures in place, it also means that Community Care workers have to put in more effort to protect their clients, consisting mostly of the elderly.

We spoke to four Community Care workers to find out what they do to safeguard a vulnerable group of Singaporeans amid the pandemic.

Siti Haryani Harmudin, Staff Nurse at MWS Nursing Home - Yew Tee

Photo courtesy of Siti Haryani Harmudin.

Siti Haryani Harmudin had always wanted to be a nurse since she was young and it was all because of her grandmother.

“I’ve been staying with my grandmother since I was a baby, so I decided to pursue a career in Community Care because I want to give back to society with the notion ‘leave no one behind’”.

While serving her main duty as a staff nurse at MWS Nursing Home – Yew Tee, she also gets to pursue her passion for the arts as the Arts Programme representative for the nursing home clients. MWS Nursing Home - Yew Tee is one of the nursing homes under the care of Methodist Welfare Services.

Apart from caring for her clients and ensuring that they take their medication on time, she also ensures that the clients stay engaged in the arts and craft activities that she has planned for them.

However, since the number of volunteer activities has been reduced, Siti sees herself and the other staff stepping in to conduct social activities that were typically helmed by volunteers.

This includes conducting sing-a-long sessions, birthday celebrations and playing memory

games with the clients.

One activity that was truly out of the staff’s alley was providing haircutting services that were

regularly done by volunteer hairdressers.

Siti said: “It wasn’t something we were trained for but after having to do it ourselves, we found out that some of my colleagues actually have the talent for haircutting.”

She also shared that it was difficult for the clients to adapt to the safe distancing measures implemented in the day room due to space constraints.

The day room is where clients would typically socialise and do activities with one another.

To minimise contact and ensure safe distancing between the clients, the use of the day room had to be minimised, which left some of the clients confused and upset.

“Explaining to them (why we can’t use the day room) is a bit challenging because not all of the clients can understand the implementations that were added. So we have to keep talking to them nicely and explain to them why we are implementing all these measures.”

Despite all the things she does for the clients, some have mistaken her career to be a “very simple job”.

“Some people tell me that it’s such a waste that I’m working in a nursing home because I’m young. They thought that I would have more clinical experience if I had worked in a hospital.”

While Siti is just as worried as everyone else about the pandemic, she’s thankful to have found a second family in her colleagues who keep her motivated every day.

She said: “We just have to motivate one another through this tough period. When things get harder, you just have to keep your faith, find your passion and find what actually keeps you going.”

Stephan Ganio, Physiotherapist Associate at MWS Nursing Home – Yew Tee

Photo courtesy of Stephan Ganio.

Many would often pass off his job as a masseur, but Stephan Ganio is more than that.

As a physiotherapist associate, he helps the clients with rehabilitation exercises, treatment and other physical activities at a separate facility within the nursing home.

However, as an added precautionary measure, rehab exercises are conducted at each residence instead of at the rehab gym to prevent the possibility of cross-infection.

“Every team has to go to their respective clients to avoid any possible infection. There’s a lack of space also at the wards (compared to the facility) so we have to maximise the space as well.”

Even though he doesn’t get to see the clients as often as he used to, he helps out in any way he can, including playing the guitar, to keep their spirits high.

“I decided to play the guitar for the clients since I know that music brings joy and laughter to them.”

Photo courtesy of Stephan Ganio.

At least once a year, Ganio would go back to his home country of the Philippines to spend

some quality time with his family.

This year, however, he may not be able to return at all because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even though he’s far from his family, Ganio is motivated to do all he can to take care of the clients knowing that he has the support of his family, friends and colleagues.

“Our clients are very important to us, they’re the ones that I’ve been taking care of since I came to Singapore to work. I must give them the best rehabilitation and treatment that I can give.”

Priscilla Chng, Senior Occupational Therapist & Rehabilitation Lead at Ren Ci Hospital @ Bukit Batok

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

Just like the other Community Care workers, Priscilla Chng worries about the health of her clients at Ren Ci Bukit Batok’s Senior Care Centre because of the pandemic.

“I was worried for my elderly clients because they belong to the vulnerable group.”

Which was why Priscilla and her colleagues had to implement all the precautionary measures, including temperature checks for the clients and scaling down group activities from 15 clients per session to just 5 clients per session.

But it wasn’t just Chng who was concerned.

She said that her clients have expressed their woes back in April, especially when they noticed that they weren’t sitting right next to their friends at the centre.

As a result, they have asked for more news reading by the staff to stay updated about the development of the situation.

“They heard about the evolving situation, so they really wanted to know what’s going on outside. Our daily news to them was helpful to ease their fears and concerns.”

To help the clients develop a habit of handwashing, Chng’s team choreographed a hand hygiene dance video.

“Initially, we just thought that we should teach the clients some hand hygiene and that’s when one of my staff said ‘Ok, I’ll choreograph a dance’. Just nice, all four (of the staff) love to dance.”

Photo courtesy of Priscilla Chng.

The team filmed two different videos to cater to the needs of the different clients: A standing version and a seated version.

The working mother-of-one has also seen herself putting in more hours lately because of the urgent planning that had to be done.

But she feels her colleagues have helped to lighten the load, especially during these trying times.

“It was of great help from my teammates that we really work together. At the start, the work was quite a lot but at least now we are more prepared.”

Babylyn Bajo, Resident Care Associate at Ren Ci Hospital @ Ang Mo Kio

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

Despite being trained to be a registered midwife, Babylyn Bajo decided to work as a resident care associate at Ren Ci Hospital @ Ang Mo Kio as she wanted to do more for the community.

“When I’m caring for the seniors, I know I am doing something worthy that is helping others in the community.”

As a resident care associate, Bajo prepares for her short-staying clients to return home by supporting them with their daily lives and activities.

This includes giving them some assistance with daily activities like showering and eating.

However, her duty has doubled especially since the suspension of volunteers and visitors at the hospital earlier in the year.

She shared that the volunteers help to keep her clients engaged not only with activities, but by chatting with them too.

To continue keeping her clients engaged, Bajo and her colleagues would hold fun activities.

This includes a handmade maze created by her and her colleagues.

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

“Since these precautions were implemented, we had to make different activities to keep our clients engaged.”

“My clients’ safety is my main concern because they are the elderly, the most vulnerable group in the community. It’s my duty to do my job properly, especially during this outbreak.”

Just as rewarding

These community care workers have gone beyond self despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite their efforts, some still perceive that their career is not worth the while.

As Siti and Ganio shared, people often perceive that their jobs as low-skilled or less important than working in a hospital.

To these care staff, however, the effort they’ve put into caring for their clients is just as rewarding as caring for other patients.

Thank You Project

After hearing the experiences from the following Community Care workers, many would think that their careers are under-appreciated.

And here is a chance to show your appreciation to Community Care staff by leaving your message on the Thank You Project website.

Here's one more story from caregiver Fazidah, who tells us how Community Care professionals helped her father during the pandemic.

This sponsored article, brought to you by the Agency for Integrated Care, has made the writer more appreciative of the work of Community Care workers.