Social isolation and the elderly poor in Singapore
SINGAPORE: Her one-room flat was a cluttered mess, and Madam Helen Fernandez herself never seemed to bathe, said her neighbours who always saw her in the same set of clothes. When case workers first visited the unkempt and confused elderly widow, they had to rush her to hospital for very high blood pressure – which resulted because she hadn’t been taking her medication and had been missing doctors’ appointments. Since her husband died 17 years ago, Mdm Fernandez had been living alone with no friends or family – and slowly falling prey to loneliness and dementia. There were times when she’d even call up the police just to talk. It was how her case got referred to the Social Service Office, and then to case worker Ahmala Rajoo in 2015. “She was receiving financial assistance, about S$500 a month,” said Ms Ahmala, a care executive with NTUC Health Cluster Support in Bukit Merah. But the neatly-groomed Mdm Fernandez you meet today almost doesn’t seem the same person. “Her memory has worsened.
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