Monday 16 February 2015

Volunteers help elderly patients stay out of hospital

By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 14 Feb 2015

RETIREE Low Buck Chua was admitted to Changi General Hospital three times in 2013.

Last year, he was placed on the Neighbours for Active Living programme, which gets a volunteer to check on him every week to make sure he takes his medication and keeps his doctors' appointments.

He did not need to be admitted to the hospital at all last year.

Early findings from the community programme, which was launched in 2013, show that it has helped keep the elderly out of hospital.

Out of 314 clients who have been on the programme for at least six months, 54 per cent went from an average of 1.9 hospital admissions in six months to 1.2. Those who were hospitalised saw their length of stay fall from an average of 8.4 days in six months to 6.4 days.

Mr Low - who has suffered a stroke and also has a severe skin allergy, hypertension and diabetes - is one of the 1,400 residents of eastern Singapore identified as vulnerable due to multiple hospital readmissions, and placed on the programme.

He and his wife are cheered up by visits from volunteer Joanna Fang.

"I feel like she cares for us," he said in Mandarin. "Friends say hi and ask if you've eaten but they don't call and remind you to take your medication."

To date, the programme - jointly developed by Eastern Health Alliance (EHA) and the South East Community Development Council - has recruited 150 volunteers.

EHA group chief executive officer T.K. Udairam said the helpers make the patients feel better in a variety of ways. "It can be from taking the medication and therefore there's less likelihood of their condition flaring up. It can also be because they are psycho-socially better, therefore they feel better and their whole system improves," he said.

Dr Maliki Osman, Mayor of South East District, added that the volunteers have "access to a wealth of information on resources".

The programme started in Bedok, Siglap and Marine Parade at first, and has since expanded to 12 neighbourhoods. By next year, it is hoped that all of the eastern region will have Neighbours for Active Living in place.

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