Putting ‘family’ at the heart of residential care

Putting 'family' at the heart of residential care
Poornam (left) and Sulosana tending to the plants in their residence—gardening is one of the activities residents at MWS Bethany Nursing Home – Choa Chu Kang engage in to cultivate well-being

Poornam Thanam, 50, was admitted to a community hospital in May 2020 after a heart attack and stroke left her partially paralysed. Although she befriended another Indian resident at the hospital, they hardly interacted as they were staying far apart, and she often felt isolated and lonely.

Poornam was worried that she would experience loneliness too after transferring to MWS Bethany Nursing Home (BNH) – Choa Chu Kang in July 2020. At that time, MWS BNH was undergoing a three-year Care Remodelling (CR) project, aimed at optimising the quality of life for residents like Poornam through a facility and care model redesign.

Every resident a ‘family’ member

With ‘family’ at its heart, the CR saw the redesign of wards into home-like ‘residences’. Residents live in ‘family’ units where each unit comprises two bedrooms that accommodate five residents each. Each ‘family’ unit therefore houses 10 residents, with dedicated care staff—an arrangement that fosters familiarity and consistent care.

Shortly after entering MWS BNH, Poornam became friends with another resident, A Sulosana. While the two were initially placed in different ‘family’ units, upon their request, MWS BNH staff specially arranged for them to be in the same unit. As Sulosana, 67, is a diabetic amputee, this set-up made it easier for them to enjoy each other’s company and to take care of one another.

Such is the person-centred, resident-directed care at MWS BNH—a core principle which prioritises individual needs and preferences.

Being in the same ‘family’ unit has strengthened the bond between Poornam and Sulosana and improved their relational well-being. “Sulosana is like a sister to me, and we do everything together. Our families hardly visit us, so we are thankful for each other,” said Poornam.” Sulosana agreed, “I feel relieved that I have someone whom I can speak to in Tamil. I had trouble communicating with the members of my previous ‘family’ unit because of a language barrier, so I didn’t have any friends.”

Like family, the two share mealtimes and take part in activities like watching Tamil shows together in the living room, part of the ward’s redesign to create a homely feel and mingling space for residents. In each Residence, a Common Activity Area, modelled after the living and dining areas of a family home, allows residents to socialise with other ‘families’.

Fostering community relationships—an extended ‘family’

Active involvement of volunteers and the community in engaging residents is also part of the CR, facilitated through curated programmes and a dedicated Community Space at the Nursing Home.

Café Joy

Situated on Level 1, the Community Space comprises Café Joy, a minimart and a multi- purpose hall. Residents who complete small jobs or participate in social activities earn ‘home dollars’ which can be exchanged for food, beverages and daily essentials at the café or minimart.

A devout Christian, Poornam used to attend Pasir Panjang Tamil Methodist Church before her health deteriorated. Since July 2022, vaccinated volunteers from the church visit her, Sulosana and the other Indian residents every month, bringing with them Indian food and other treats.

Poornam and Sulosana work at Café Joy as a cashier and barista respectively. Café Joy is designed to be run by residents to empower them with a sense of independence and purpose. Taking on micro jobs like these has made their days more meaningful, they said. “I feel very happy to learn new skills and to stay active. I enjoy being a cashier,” Poornam said.

The CR was officially unveiled in August 2022 during an event attended by over 70 guests, including Dr Gerard Ee, Chairman of Agency for Integrated Care, and Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC (Keat Hong).

In her opening speech, MWS CEO, Junie Foo, said, “Life at MWS Bethany is vibrant and purposeful. It is about living, and not simply passing time or retiring. A wide selection of programmes is provided for residents’ social interaction and engagement—from communal dining sessions, pet therapy and urban farming to purposeful voluntary work in-house.”

Give the gift of ‘family’ warmth to the chronically ill like Poornam and Sulosana

Some 99% of the residents at MWS BNH are wheelchair-bound or bed-ridden who need moderate to total assistance and supervision. Most of them come from low-income backgrounds, and some struggle to afford the minimum payment. Donations are critical to give them the long-term care that they cannot afford. The Bible says that when we help others, it pleases the Lord. Proverbs 19:17 states: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

Contribute to our low-income residents’ stay at our nursing home today. Visit mws.sg/give to donate or find out more.

By the Methodist Welfare Services Communications Team/ Photos courtesy of Methodist Welfare Services