real talk: caring for the elderly in singapore

When I started this blog, I didn't want it to focus only on myself or my experiences living abroad.

Community is important to me, so the goal I intend to work towards is to create a platform where friends who are a huge inspiration to me can also share freely.

That being said, I am more given to spontaneity than structured planning (whoops). Two weeks ago, I texted my friend Rachael to ask if she would be keen to talk about her experiences in caring for the elderly in Singapore... and she said yes!

This girl has such a big heart for the old, the destitute and the marginalised. Be blessed with her sharing.

xx,
iz


caring for elderly in singapore

A very opinionated but wise elderly man once told me: "When an old man tells you something, you take it and wrap it like a newspaper. You know what I mean? Means it’s very precious. You understand right?"

His analogy was unconventional, but it did make some sense. Working with the low-income, frail and vulnerable elderly in the community has been filled with ups and downs, but with it also comes the privilege of entering their worlds, and coming out with wisdom that I now carry with me as I journey through life as a young adult.

Here are 5 things I've learned from working and caring for the elderly in Singapore:

caring for the elderly in singapore

1. Forgive.

As we journey along in life, unpleasant incidents can slowly cause our hearts to be hardened and filled with bitterness.

One day, I was with Y, an elderly man who was blind and had just moved to a nursing home. As he related to me how he had a large sum of money stolen by his siblings, I asked, “Have you forgiven them?”

It was then that I saw a reflection of myself in him. Have I forgiven those who have hurt me, or have I hardened my heart and allowed bitterness to breed in my heart?

Forgive, not because what the person did to you was "right", but because it's the best thing to do for yourself.

social services elderly folk

2. Live life one day at a time.

And while you are at it, find joy.

“I am living day by day...what else can I do?” The elderly love to say this every time I ask them how they are. It may sound saddening to always hear it, but I have been reflecting on it and think there is some wisdom to this saying.

There are so many stressors in life - career, marriage, finances, children, ageing parents and so on - but there is a strange sense of release, a sense of freedom, when you decide to simply let go and trust God, step by step, day by day.

 social services elderly singapore

3. We bear the consequences of bad decisions.

This one may come across as common sense, but perhaps it is less reflected upon. Once, a bed-bound elderly man gave my colleague and I some advice that stuck with me: “Don’t live like me. I was reckless when I was young, fought a lot, and ended up in prison. I didn’t save money, smoked and drank a lot, and now that I’m in this state I can tell you, live wisely.”

I don’t think any of us would wilfully break the law, but his point illuminated a key life lesson to me. In major decisions such as choosing a marriage partner or a career path, it is wise to seek counsel, but always remember that you are the one who has to live through the consequences of your decisions.

There is a strange sense of release, a sense of freedom, when you decide to simply let go and trust God.
 elderly in singapore

4. Be rich in love.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what name you've carved out for yourself in your industry or how rich you are, but who is by your side when you are battling cancer or repeatedly forgetting where you place your keys.

Once, I was on a house visit to an elderly widow who had just lost her husband. Weeping, she shared how her husband was the best husband anyone could have asked for. I could understand why. He had been a well-to-do, prominent leader in the community, and always made it a point to come home for dinner no matter how busy he was.

He would also invite friends who were having extra-marital affairs to his own home. Over dinner, he would give these men pep talks, processing with them and advising them to stay loyal and treasure their wives who had been committed to looking after their children, cooking for them and being with them all these years. After these talks, his friends would often go back to their wives.

Let’s face it: Temptation is everywhere, but only true love will be there for you when you are down and out, whether in plenty or in lack.

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5. There is always hope.

It pains my heart every time I listen to stories of immense suffering from the elderly and see the tears flow down their cheeks.

From an 80-year-old who was abandoned by his wife and children and pines for their return everyday, to a 73-year-old lady who had a large sum of money stolen by her family and is now the only caregiver to her young grandchild... life can hit you really hard.

To see them battle depression, bitterness and obstacles while still choosing to carry on day after day, week after week - I cannot help but marvel. There is something so beautiful about the resilience of the human spirit.

So keep the faith. Fight on.

 
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rachael

is a 24-year-old Singaporean who has been working in the social services sector since 2015. She felt convicted to enter this field because of a newswriting module in university that opened her heart towards the elderly in Singapore who are living with low or no family support. She aims to specialise in dementia care in the near future.