Neighbours CAN help one another

SINGAPORE - Madam Mary Chau, 60, suffered a stroke 13 years ago, leaving her semi-paralysed, incontinent and depressed.

But the divorced mother-of-two, who has since recovered except for some numbness in her left arm, was helped by a neighbour for four years.

"She would bring me food to eat, talk to me, take me to the doctor," said Madam Chau in Mandarin. "I'm so grateful. I understand what it is like to be helpless and what it feels like to be helped."

She is now paying that forward as a caregiver to five seniors under the Caring Assistance from Neighbours (CAN) programme. The joint effort, by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Agency for Integrated Care, piloted mid-last year.

It now has 41 caregivers like Madam Chau - each trained for five hours - supporting 237 seniors in Bukit Merah, Geylang, Taman Jurong and Kallang. The programme will be rolled out to four more areas - Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Toa Payoh and Queenstown - later this year.

Of the caregivers, five have an extra 10 hours of health-care training to do things like take blood pressure and dole out medication. These caregivers report to a registered nurse and visit their clients daily to remind them to take their medication and ensure they go for their medical appointments.

Caregivers under this healthcare component of CAN - which was launched in May - get an allowance of $80 per month per client. The others get $200 per 40 hours of interaction.

The CAN programme was officially launched on Friday by Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing during a visit to the home of a beneficiary in Outram. The scheme is important, he said, because the community is enlisted to take care of people living in the same area.

"This way, we don't have to uproot the elderly and institutionalise them in homes which is not only costly but also breaks the social bonds that they have established within the community," he said, adding that the caregiver is also energised through the process.

Madam Chau, for instance, has visited wheelchair-bound Mr Petha Murugajahal every day since May.

The 71-year-old, who lost the use of his legs after an accident at a construction site, said he looks forward to the visits. He never married.

"I feel that Mary is my own sister. I love her," he said.

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