Serena Chua
Senior Case Manager
Agency for Integrated Care

At the age of 19 while serving National Service, Jake’s* frequent falls prompted in-depth medical investigation. He was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a genetic disorder which his father succumbed to very early on in life.

Loved and well cared for by his mother Madam Kay* and elder sister Jasmine*, Jake became increasingly dependent on others to take care of his daily needs. By his late 20s, Jake’s main caregiver, Madam Kay, was responsible for his feeding, hygiene and toileting needs. Now bedbound, Jake was no longer able to talk and communicated with his mother and sister by blinking his eyes.

Madam Kay works part-time at a convenience store near their home, and rents out two bedrooms to supplement the family’s income. While she is Jake’s beacon of light and pillar of support, the stress and fatigue of being the main caregiver soon took a toll on Madam Kay’s health. She suffered from retinal detachment in her right eye, and tore both rotator cuff muscles in her shoulders due to the constant lifting that is required in caring for Jake. Surgery corrected the former condition, but she needed a period of rest and had to abstain from lifting heavy objects for her shoulder muscles to heal. It was a luxury she could ill afford. Instead, Madam Kay opted for pain relieving injections so that she could continue to take care of Jake.

Jasmine wanted very much to relieve her mother’s load, but was unable to help out as much due to her own family commitments. Subsequently, she called the Agency for Integrated Care’s Singapore Silver Line to request nursing home support for Jake. This brought me into the lives of Jake and his family.

During the first home visit, I learnt that Jake slept in a hospital bed that had bolsters tied to its sides. This was to prevent Jake from hurting himself due to his frequent epileptic fits. Twice a week, with the assistance of two home care service providers, Madam Kay would bathe her son. At other times, the committed mother would sponge him down in bed. Meal times used to be the highlight of Jake’s day as Madam Kay was a consummate cook who would whip up delicious bowls of porridge. However, even this became increasingly difficult as Jake’s physical weakness made it difficult for him to sit up in bed.

Although Madam Kay wanted very much to continue caring for Jake, she was aware that she was getting on in years and getting physically weaker. With this in mind, Madam Kay decided to apply to place Jake in a nursing home so that he can continue to receive the care and support needed.

We assisted Madam Kay with Jake’s nursing home application. In the interim, we managed to secure a fairly new, donated mechanical hoist which enabled Madam Kay to move Jake around more easily. Madam Kay was overjoyed as she was able to feed her son effortlessly. From his smiles, Jake also showed that he liked being in the hoist.

Jake’s nursing home application was processed fairly quickly. All parties involved coordinated their efforts to assist Madam Kay and Jake in getting the best care as quickly as they could. The nursing home is located just thirty minutes away from their home by public transport. This allows the dutiful mother to visit Jake daily and feed him lunch before reporting for work. With the support of the nursing home, Madam Kay now has more time to care for herself and enjoys peace of mind while at work.

Although it was a tough decision initially, Madam Kay now realises she has given Jake the greatest gift possible by seeking out Community Care support to help her in caring for Jake.

Key Learning Points:

  1. Institutionalised care is always a last resort. But sometimes, it is required for the wellbeing of the caregiver.
  2. When creatively used and employed, medical equipment can improve the quality of life for clients and their caregivers.
  3. Teamwork and cooperation among the different stakeholders managing a case is essential for care to be administered in a timely fashion.