Equipping volunteers for pastoral care to the elderly

Equipping volunteers for pastoral care to the elderly
Andre Chan, a member of Barker Road Methodist Church and pastoral care volunteer with MWS, with Mr Tan Guan Liang, a resident of MWS Nursing Home - Yew Tee

It is a known fact that Singapore’s population is ageing rapidly. By 2030, 25 per cent of our population is expected to be 65 years or older. In fact, 1 in 10 of those aged 65 and above will most likely suffer from some form of dementia. The statistics point to an urgent need for us to better equip ourselves in caring for the elderly. We spoke with Rev Dr Norman Wong, Head Chaplain from Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), to learn more about what we can do.

MWS Staff:     We’ve heard from some MWS volunteers how valuable and cherished the bedside pastoral visits have been for elderly residents at MWS’ Nursing Homes. How do we equip more volunteers to provide pastoral care?

Rev Norman: You can join me in the Pastoral Care Volunteer Training course that I run. The purpose of the course is to enhance our volunteers’ capacity to care for others—especially seniors with dementia. The training will also help you to age graciously yourself, because before you can consistently care for others, you must take good care of yourself.

When I first joined MWS, I was the only chaplain. So, I sought help from other chaplains in the social service sector, especially from the Anglicans. They very kindly allowed me to go through their intensive pastoral care training programme. With their kind permission and encouragement, I condensed the training I received into 28 short training videos, each lasting an average of 10 minutes. You will also receive “on-the-job” training through this course.

MWS Staff:     What do you mean by “on-the-job” training?

Rev Norman:  This course provides you with the unique opportunity of learning by doing, where you discover things for yourself as you join me in making pastoral visits.

The training videos include modules on “Listening to God”, “Understanding Yourself”, “How to Keep Praying Even When Your Prayers are Not Answered” and “Dying Well”, among others.

MWS Staff:     What skills will one learn?

Rev Norman:  The core skill you will develop is attentive listening. The core discipline you will develop is pausing to reflect and learn from what you have done. In addition, there are practical modules like how to minister to someone with dementia, who suffered a stroke or with thoughts of suicide.

MWS Staff:     How much time will this course take? How long is it?

Rev Norman:  I suggest that people just come once and have a taste of Module 1 before deciding if they will proceed further. I will need two hours of your time. We will meet at one of our Nursing Homes, and you can come alone or with a small group of your friends.

In that time, you will make between two to four pastoral care visits. After that we will regroup and reflect on our experience and learn together.

How often you come is up to you. Can you afford two hours once a month? Once in two months? Each visit is meaningful by itself.

MWS Staff:     What qualifications do I need to enrol for this course?

Rev Norman:  All you need is a heart to serve the Lord and a desire to keep learning and growing in your capacity to care for others. I believe that if you choose to join me in this training, our Lord will minister to you as you learn to minister to others.

About the Trainer

Rev Dr Norman Wong graduated from the London School of Theology in 1977 and served for seven years with the Chinese Overseas Christian Mission in Scotland before returning to Singapore. He has been a pastor with the Trinity Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore since 1985. Besides serving as a pastor in six different Methodist churches, he has also been assigned to Missions, Schools and Youth Ministries. In 2014, he was appointed as a chaplain of Methodist Welfare Services where he has been serving and visiting the elderly in its nursing homes. He can be contacted via email at normanwong@mws.sg.

By the Methodist Welfare Services Communications Team. / Photo courtesy of Methodist Welfare Services