Social workers to help seniors manage finances: How Touch staff help an elderly woman living alone

Ms Lai Yen Hoon, 50, Senior Social Worker from TOUCH Cluster Support (Kallang), with Madam Cheong Siew Keng, 85, at her flat on Nov 29, 2017. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Every two months, Madam Cheong Siew Keng makes a trip to an ATM at the Geylang Bahru neighbourhood where she lives.

"I will withdraw $500 each time for household expenses," says the 85-year-old.

She will ask a staff member from the Touch Senior Activity Centre, which runs a branch at the void deck of her Housing Board (HDB) flat, to accompany her to make sure that she punches in the correct PIN number.

"I trust them," says Madam Cheong.

It is the same drill when she has to visit the doctor - she will tell the staff at the Touch centre that she is ill and ask that they accompany her to the clinic.

"I have lived here for 18 years. The last 15 years I lived alone after my husband died," she says. "I don't have any children. The people at Touch are like my family members."

From next year, she will be able to turn to the voluntary welfare organisation for a new service.

Should she lose the ability to make financial decisions for herself, Touch will be able to manage her finances on her behalf, by getting court approval to withdraw from her bank savings for her healthcare and household expenses.

While Madam Cheong may be living alone in a HDB rental flat, she does not receive public assistance and instead relies on her savings of more than $10,000.

"My husband was working as a goldsmith and I was a housemaid, so we have some savings," says the sprightly woman.

Touch senior social worker Lai Yen Hoon, who has cared for Madam Cheong for more than two years, says that the new scheme will help social workers continue to provide care to their charges.

"Many of the seniors trust us to take care of them and the trust is built over many years. The new scheme is another way that we can continue to care for them," she says.

Meanwhile, Madam Cheong says that while she may be healthy now, her health and memory will eventually fail.

"I don't think about it," she says. "But when it happens, I know that I will not be alone."

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