Joseph Cheong
Senior Care Coordinator
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

During a home visit to a flat at Woodlands Ring Road, I was greeted by the elderly spouse of my patient Madam Eng. The gentleman, whose gait was unsteady and vision poor, was above 70 years of age. He flashed me a toothless grin as he led me to his wife’s bedroom.

A frail and sickly-looking Madam Eng with tousled hair lay on a mattress in an unkempt and cluttered bedroom. Due to her frail demeanour, she looked much older than her actual age of 64.

The elderly couple had two daughters, Fong Chee and Fong Chin. The former was her mother’s primary care giver, while the latter worked full-time to support the family. Fong Chee appeared distraught over her mother’s condition. The Home Nursing Foundation had treated Madam Eng for a sacral sore and taught Fong Chee to keep it dry and clean at all times.

Despite having a hospital bed, Madam Eng was lying on a mattress on the floor. When I checked with Fong Chee about the matter, she revealed that the bed could not be adjusted. The necessary vendor was contacted the following day and the issue resolved.

Sadly, before my next home visit to Madam Eng’s residence, she was re-admitted to hospital and passed away shortly after. The family generously donated almost two cartons of adult diapers which had been left unused.

Two years later, I met the sisters once again when their father was hospitalised at KTPH having suffered a stroke. He passed on a short while later and the unused adult diapers were once again donated.

From this incident, I reflected constantly about the responsibilities and emotions of a primary care giver. They are often reclusive, sometimes not by choice, as caring for the patient takes up most of their time. Few people give a thought to the sacrifices they have made, having dedicated their lives to looking after a sickly parent or relative. Fong Chee was only 30-years-old when the task of looking after her elderly parents fell on her shoulders. I certainly hope that in time, she can find her life direction and re-join society as a productive adult with goals and dreams of her own.

Key Learning Points:

  1. Home visits are important as they give Case Managers insight into the patient’s life and allow for intervention to take place to increase quality of life.
  2. Case Managers are an important link between patients and external vendors.
  3. More support is needed for primary care givers.