Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Pioneering programme that trains and pairs volunteers with the vulnerable elderly in their neighbourhoods is successful in keeping them healthy and reducing hospitalisation.
The “Neighbours for Active Living” ("Neighbours") programme, pioneered by the Eastern Health Alliance (EH Alliance) and South East Community Development Council (South East CDC), will expand beyond eastern Singapore. EH Alliance and South East CDC are partnering the National Healthcare Group (NHG) to further strengthen the initiative and move it into the Central Region of Singapore.
The ’Neighbours’ programme is a unique programme that brings together a full time community care team and volunteers. Volunteers receive comprehensive training to equip them to help care for ‘clients’ in their own neighbourhoods, by building long-term relationships and helping them stay as healthy as possible where they live.
Many ‘Neighbours’ clients are frequent hospital admitters or vulnerable, elderly persons with complex medical and social care needs. Since its inception in Siglap and Bedok in mid-2013, the ‘Neighbours’ programme’s blend of targeted healthcare and social approach has served a total of 3,010 clients throughout eastern Singapore. A total of 40 staff and more than 200 volunteers, ranging from students to retirees and professionals, make up the support network.
‘Neighbours’ continues to show outstanding results in 2015, with two out of three clients reducing their number of hospitalisations within six months of entering the programme.
Expanding Neighbours beyond the East
At the ‘Neighbours’ Volunteers’ Appreciation event today, Mayor of South-East District, Dr Maliki Osman, announced that NHG would adopt the programme to serve clients in the MacPherson and Braddell Heights constituencies. South East CDC and NHG have already begun volunteer recruitment and trained 20 volunteers living in MacPherson since June 2015, and they are in the process of rolling out the programme to more than 90 vulnerable elderly living in that neighbourhood.
Dr Maliki Osman told those present that “the success of ‘Neighbours’ lies in the community” and that “’Neighbours’ would not be possible without the community coming together to help one another.” Dr Maliki also added that “essentially, this is what we (South East CDC) hope to build - a micro-community where everyone, especially the neighbours, readily help one another. I hope more residents can join us to volunteer for this meaningful programme.”
Professor Philip Choo, Group Chief Executive Officer, NHG, added, “We are happy to partner with EH Alliance and South East CDC to support our shared communities. NHG’s vision is to move from illness to wellness care and create a sustainable, relationship-based healthcare system. NHG ‘Neighbours’ will support vulnerable patients with medical and social issues by empowering them and their caregivers to be cared for in the community. Volunteers will act as social integrators, helping frail elderly residents navigate and access the needed social support, as well as reinforce basic medical advice. The aim is to slow disease progression by addressing social factors that may contribute to poor health management. We hope to rekindle the kampung spirit where neighbours are the hands, eyes and ears for one another – caring for each other.”
NHG will continue to work with South East CDC and VWOs to expand the programme to other neighbourhoods.
On Neighbours’ expansion beyond the East, Mr T.K Udairam, Group CEO EH Alliance said: “We were very happy when NHG approached us about replicating ‘Neighbours’ in their region. EH Alliance is very supportive of NHG’s efforts and has provided training, tools and resources for their team to help kickstart their programme.” Agreeing with Dr Maliki’s comment on the importance of the community coming together to help one another, Mr TK Udairam added that “for EH Alliance, being able to share our learnings with our neighbouring Regional Health System is also an extension of the gotong-royong (helping one another) spirit.”Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong graced today’s Volunteers’ Appreciation event as Guest-of-Honour. ESM Goh presented awards to 45 dedicated volunteers. One of them is 52-year-old home-maker, Ms Nekmah Bte Mahadi. Since 2014, she has helped to care for 5 elderly neighbours who are ‘Neighbours’ clients living in her own block, looking after their medication, follow-up medical appointments and general well-being.
An award was also presented to a group of young volunteers from Bedok View Secondary School and Siglap East Resident Committee. These students have been organising weekly social activities, including games and handicraft sessions for the elderly at the void deck of Blk 171, Bedok South Road. These activities for ‘Neighbours’ clients and lonely seniors in the neighbourhood are an integral part of the ‘Neighbours’ programme to help keep vulnerable elderly engaged.
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Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.