US boy scout gets on board to help hospice care patients

Andrew guides HCA Day Hospice Care beneficiary Ms Sim with some of the tasks on his dexterity board, which help patients improve their fine motor skills and cognitive functioning. Other dexterity boards are similar to children's toys.
Andrew guides HCA Day Hospice Care beneficiary Ms Sim with some of the tasks on his dexterity board, which help patients improve their fine motor skills and cognitive functioning. Other dexterity boards are similar to children's toys.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

In a move resembling moments from the Pixar animated film Up, an American boy scout who visited terminally ill patients at a hospice here has created a simple but useful tool to help them.

Andrew Greene, 14, a student at the Singapore American School, made six dexterity boards and delivered them to HCA Hospice Care last week.

These boards have items that help patients perform everyday tasks, such as gripping a clothes peg, turning a tap, zipping a bag, pulling a latch and pressing a switch.

Ms Nancy Soon, a supervisor at the HCA Day Hospice Centre in Novena, said the boards have been very helpful for the patients.

She told The Straits Times: "Some patients have numbness or tingling in their hands. These boards help them practise doing everyday tasks and reduce the numbness.

"They help the patients improve their fine motor skills, as well as their cognitive functioning, so these are very beneficial for them."

The centre has other dexterity boards, but these are similar to children's toys, in which people have to fit blocks into holes of different shapes, so they are more simplistic and patients find it "childish" to use, Ms Soon said.

INSPIRATION

I found out that the patients have limited exercises involving their hands. That's when I came up with the idea of the dexterity boards, so that they can have more hand exercises, and relate it to their individual lives and live as independently as possible.

ANDREW GREENE, a Life Scout, on what spurred him to create the dexterity boards.

Andrew moved to Singapore from the United States three years ago, after his father had a job posting here. But his father now works in the United States, and Andrew will move back in June.

He learnt about HCA about six months ago through a Singapore-based group of the Boy Scouts of America organisation.

"I found out that the patients have limited exercises involving their hands. That was when I came up with the idea of the dexterity boards, so that they can have more hand exercises, and relate it to their individual lives and live as independently as possible," said Andrew, a Life Scout.

Making the boards is also part of his efforts to be an Eagle Scout - the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts programme of Boy Scouts of America. Only 4 per cent of Boy Scouts are given this rank.

One of the requirements to be an Eagle Scout is to "plan, develop, and give leadership to others" in a community service project.

His efforts mirror aspects of the Pixar film Up, in which a boy scout visits an elderly widower in his effort to earn a merit badge.

Andrew raised funds to cover the cost of the materials, and then donated the excess $400 raised to HCA. The six boards cost him about $530 in total to make, while similar boards he found online cost $280 to $560 each. Leading 12 friends, Andrew made the boards over two days.

Ms Susan Sim, 55, a cancer patient and former production operator, has been at HCA Day Hospice Centre for about two months.

She said of Andrew's efforts: "The boards are good. Using them helps to strengthen my hands and makes it easier for me to practise doing day-to-day tasks at home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline 'US boy scout gets on board to help hospice care patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe