Home visits make life much easier for mum and caregiver daughter

Dr Erwin Francisco, resident physician at Dover Park Hospice, and staff nurse Zhao Meijuan attending to Mrs Monica Fernandez in her own home. Since joining Programme Dignity last year, Mrs Fernandez and her daughter, who cares for her, have not neede
Dr Erwin Francisco, resident physician at Dover Park Hospice, and staff nurse Zhao Meijuan attending to Mrs Monica Fernandez in her own home. Since joining Programme Dignity last year, Mrs Fernandez and her daughter, who cares for her, have not needed to call an ambulance as often, as a team of doctors, nurses and medical social workers make home visits a few times a month.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Every time her mother needed to go to a medical appointment, Ms Dora Fernandez, 65, had to call an ambulance, costing about $90 for a two-way trip.

Her mother, Mrs Monica Fernandez, 89, suffers from advanced dementia. She was diagnosed about 20 years ago and slowly declined until she lost the ability to walk in 2015.

Unable to carry her mother out of the flat and down the stairs, Ms Fernandez had to depend on ambulance staff to ferry her to and from appointments.

However, since joining Programme Dignity last year, Ms Fernandez and her mother have not needed to call an ambulance as often. Instead, a team of doctors, nurses and medical social workers visit her home a few times a month to conduct checks on her mother.

"Instead of calling an ambulance, going to various places and waiting for consultation, which greatly stresses my mother, the team comes right here to help her. It is very personal care and it really makes things better for us."

To care for her mother, Ms Fernandez retired from her civil service job about a decade ago, after the death of her father, who had been taking care of his wife, sometimes putting aside his own needs to do so.

She deals with her mother's condition full-time, with help now from a domestic worker and her sister. "Sometimes it was very hard to know what to do," she recalled. "My mother would be anxious, stressed or suddenly listless like she was almost unconscious and I didn't know how to cope with it."

Her mother would also be unable to sleep for a few days and had difficulty eating. She also counts aloud when she is anxious.

"It can be frightening for me when she has problems, like waking up at night and saying she's in pain," said Ms Fernandez.

 

"But now I know I have someone to call all day, every day. I can get advice and reassurance from the team. I don't have to panic."

Since her mother joined the programme, she has been in mostly stable condition and feels more comfortable, says Ms Fernandez.

"She used to keep saying, 'Why am I suffering?' She doesn't say that any more," Ms Fernandez added, with a smile.

She is comfortable at home, and the medical team has helped keep her there.

Sue-Ann Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2017, with the headline 'Home visits make life much easier for mum and caregiver daughter'. Print Edition | Subscribe