Home nurse & caregiver

Nursing care right at home

As Singapore ages and family sizes shrink, spouses and paid staff will take on a bigger role in caregiving. In the second and final part of The Sunday Times Special Report on caregivers, Radha Basu catches up with caregivers who are already fulfilling those roles. 

Businessman Ang Chee Kong, 76, suffered a stroke while on a work trip to Malaysia in late 2007.

Luckily, it was mild and he could resume his daily activities once he was back in Singapore.

A year later, he slipped and fell in the bathroom, fracturing his hip. After a spell in hospital, he recovered once more. This time, though, he needed a walking stick to get around.

Then in 2011, came the biggie: another stroke that left the father of four using a wheelchair to get around. It also affected his speech.

As the family did not have a maid at the time, his wife and children decided to put him in a nursing home.

He developed pneumonia there and had difficulty swallowing. Two more hospital admissions followed.

Unsure of the quality of care at the nursing home, the family decided to bring him home, recounted his wife of 54 years, Madam Poh Lay Choo, 77.

"But we were very worried about how we would manage," she said in Mandarin. Because of swallowing difficulties he was being tube fed at the time.

The family hired a helper, Anisa Kurniyawati, 31, to help Madam Poh look after her husband.

Through the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) which was set up to coordinate eldercare services, the Angs were also referred to Touch Home Care, which provides home medical services.

With their father needing long-term care at home, the couple's children pitched in to buy a hospital bed and a $3,000 hoist that enables Mr Ang to be easily transferred from the bed to the wheelchair."He fell once while we were trying to lift him," said Madam Poh. "So we bought the hoist."

Homcare nurse Charlotte Tan has been a great help. The first day she visited, the "family was very worried, lost and helpless", said Ms Tan who has been looking after the family ever since she was assigned to them in 2011.

In the early days, she found out their needs and concerns and set to work teaching Madam Poh and her helper Anisa Kurniyawati, 31, the basics of nursing care at home.

They had no idea how to tube-feed a patient, monitor blood pressure or treat or prevent sores.

"In fact, I did not even know how to change his diapers," said Madam Poh.

From two to three times a week, Ms Tan now visits only once in a couple of months. The Angs pay $90 for each visit, though subsidies are available for lower-income families.

There have been no further hospital admissions and Mr Ang is in a stable condition.

"The nurse taught us everything," said Madam Poh, "Now we can look after him well at home."