Learning > Inspiration

Senior volunteers set to help elderly patients

TTSH starts 2-year pilot to train them with paraclinical skills

Felicia Choo on 20 Oct 2018

The Straits Times


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Having gone through knee replacement surgery two years ago, Mr Lim Thiam Beng, 54, wants to help other elderly patients recover faster by learning from physiotherapists simple bed exercises that can help such patients.


The part-time handyman is one of 70 people, aged 50 and older, who have signed up for a new volunteer programme for seniors at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).


Over the next two years, these volunteers will be helping eye clinic and total knee replacement patients, the hospital said yesterday.


They will also be trained to prevent delirium in elderly patients by orientating their environment, helping them to sit up, encouraging them to drink water and engaging them in activities such as puzzles.


The pilot programme aims to recruit 160 senior volunteers, who will receive training developed by TTSH's healthcare staff and its Centre for Health Activation (CHA), a training and research institute for volunteers.


The new programme differs from other kinds of senior volunteerism which involve befriending activities, as volunteers will be taught paraclinical skills such as taking down a patient's medical history and demonstrating the right way to apply eye drops, said Dr Mark Chan, CHA's clinical adviser.


"Seniors are more aware of the medical issues and have much better rapport with patients, compared with some of the younger, inexperienced volunteers," he added.


The programme was launched yesterday at the Singapore Patient Conference held at TTSH, wherepatients, community partners and healthcare professionals shared insights on how to create a better healthcare system.


Called the Temasek Foundation Cares - Champs (Centre for Health Activation Mobilises Para-Clinical Seniors), the programme runs from September this year to August 2020, with 13,300 frail seniors expected to benefit from it.


Volunteers who are selected have to attend an induction course and must be able to commit for at least six months.


Temasek Foundation Cares, a non-profit philanthropic organisation, has donated $293,000 to the programme.


Dr Kelvin Tan, a consultant at TTSH's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, said volunteers can motivate patients to do the exercises in between their daily physiotherapy sessions. This can help shorten their hospital stay, which averages around five days.


A 72-year-old knee replacement surgery patient, who wanted to be known only as Madam Chong, said: "If they know how to do it properly, I'm okay with it."


The elderly make up a sizeable proportion of volunteers, who do not perform paraclinical roles, at other healthcare institutions such as those under SingHealth, and the National University Hospital (NUH).


More than 70 per cent of volunteers for some programmes at Singapore General Hospital, Changi General Hospital and SingHealth Polyclinics are aged 50 and above, said a SingHealth spokesman.


Besides serving meals and feeding patients, they also guide them in using self-service kiosks to make payment.


NUH has elderly volunteers who engage elderly patients in activities such as colouring and providing hair cutting services for patients.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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