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By St Luke’s ElderCare (SLEC)

In times of crisis, people instinctively gather together to share experiences, show solidarity and help one another. In the midst of the pandemic, social distancing may run contrary to our desire to seek human connection, yet social support has proven to be an important factor in protecting against the negative impact that events can have on our mental health.

In this "new normal" and festive season, St Luke's ElderCare (SLEC) has turned to virtual alternatives and new ways of caring to spread some warmth and cheer to our staff, elders, caregivers and partners.

While staff reminisce the warmth and camaraderie from past group celebrations, we continue to find ways to connect via small group celebrations and prepare gift tokens to encourage and remind one another the true spirit of Christmas.

Maintaining Social Routines

In April 2020, our elders and staff bid farewell to each other following the announcement on Circuit Breaker measures. It would be the first time that most of our elders and staff are away from each other; although many felt sad, they understood that this was necessary to keep them safe.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about the closure of eldercare services in the community in April 2020. At SLEC, this meant a sudden and an abrupt disconnect for all our seniors from our 23 centres. Family members in the same household had to adjust and accommodate to each other.

Thus, the "Project Care Ambassador" was initiated, comprising mental, psychological and social support to elders and caregivers.

As part of this initiative, "Stay Home With SLEC" videos were filmed and compiled by SLEC staff,  streamed on YouTube and Facebook with different programmes daily. These videos helped to maintain a sense of 'normalcy' and routine for elders at home.

An elder, 93-year-old Mdm Ng, shared that she enjoyed her weekday mornings watching "Stay Home With SLEC" videos created with love by the passionate care staff from different centres.

Mdm Ng participating in the Stay Home virtual engagement with SLEC

The Project Care Ambassador also encompassed a Caregiver Support Group (CSG) , facilitated by a multi-disciplinary team, including counsellors, art therapists and medical social workers. It continues to date, providing a safe platform to support the well-being of our caregivers. Tele-rehabilitation sessions were introduced to our elders who were unable to return to our centres, to continue their exercise routine at home.

Home-based learning materials for the elders

Maintaining Our Partner Bonds

In addition, virtual programmes were created to extend outreach and encourage SLEC partners to stay meaningfully engaged. Evonne, one of our volunteers shared, "I got to know other volunteers even though the programmes were conducted online. It was also nice to know more about SLEC and the types of activities to engage the elders and be better prepared."

Ms Jasmine Ong, an elder who attends one of SLEC centres also shared how she used to enjoy the visits of church partners who organised various activities weekly. "Because of COVID-19, they had to stop the visits. I really miss them and their lovely singing as well as the warm fellowship. Thankfully, we are able to continue interacting virtually via ZOOM" said Ms Ong.

Painting is one of the all-time favourite activities that Ms Jasmine Ong enjoyed in the centre

Indeed, in this unprecedented times, social connection and routine are some of the valuable ways we stay connected, and establishing a sense of support that 'we're all in this together'.

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