Causes Week 2018: Contribute towards new pillows for the elderly

Hairstylists give free haircuts to elderly patients in a hospital, a band plays for residents of nursing homes, while needy seniors will get new pillows from a social service organisation.

Mr Tan Lye Heng hopes to get a new pillow to replace his two old pillows.
Mr Tan Lye Heng hopes to get a new pillow to replace his two old pillows. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

Former road sweeper Tan Lye Heng, 83, has two pillows. Both have become flat over time so he stacks them up when he sleeps. Despite doing so, he still gets neck pain and some sleepless nights.

As he is unable to control his mouth muscles, he salivates on the pillows, which have become smelly.

Mr Tan has had the first pillow for years and the second one was given to him by social service organisation Bethesda Care Services (BCS) two years ago.

By Chinese New Year, BCS hopes to give Mr Tan and 300 other elderly beneficiaries new pillows.

"During home visits, I observed that many of them use pillows that look old or are flat and stained. Yet, not many donation drives out there give out pillows," said Ms Esther Yap, programme executive at BCS. "We want them to have clean pillows so that at least, they can have good sleep. Changing a pillow is probably a low priority for those who are financially tight."

In Mr Tan's case, it is both financial constraints and his health. He is fearful of leaving his three-room flat in Bedok as he has had two falls which landed him in hospital. He suffered a stroke in 2010 and now has heart problems and hypertension.

He lives with his 52-year-old mentally challenged son. His wife is in a nursing home. Every month, father and son get about $550 in financial aid. For lunch, they get free meals from a nearby charity every day. Dinner is usually instant noodles.

"I don't know what type of pillow is good, but I will be happy to have a new one," said Mr Tan.

Ms Yap said BCS hopes to give the elderly thicker pillows so that their heads and necks will get adequate support. It has started a campaign, which closes at the end of the year, on crowdfunding platform Its target is $15,000, about half of which will be used to buy pillows costing $25 each for 300 senior citizens. The rest will go towards funding its active-ageing programme and meal delivery service.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 23, 2018, with the headline Contribute towards new pillows for the elderly. Subscribe