Our Stories: A place to call home

A place to call home

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With one hand firmly holding onto an apple-shaped ball, [email protected] resident, Ah Fong, is pushed into the Occupational Therapy room on a wheelchair by Nurse Aide, Ms Jel Gandecila. She is greeted with bright and cheerful “hellos” from her Occupational Therapist (OT), Ms Susan Goh.

Ah Fong, who turns 60 years old with MINDS this year, was found abandoned at the old Majestic Theatre on 13 Nov 1966. With attempts at locating her relatives proving unsuccessful, Ah Fong was shuffled between homes and fostered under the Mentally Defective Fostering Scheme in 1970 before being admitted to [email protected] in 1975. Diagnosed with intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, Ah Fong’s needs continue to evolve as she ages. As a resident at [email protected], her daily living and health care needs are cared for by a team of staff, including Allied Health Professionals (AHPs).

A resident of [email protected] since 1975, Ah Fong's infectious joy brings a smile to the members of staff caring for her.
Therapy sessions are tailored to Ah Fong's needs and preferences, including elements like colours and music.

An often overlooked aspect of a resident’s quality of life is the relationships they yearn to build with others. In the absence of biological family members, care staff like Ms Gandecila and Ms Goh, who have been caring for Ah Fong over the last two to five years, have filled the role of an older sister to Ah Fong.

Ms Gandecila, who assists Ah Fong in daily activities such as bathing, eating, occupational therapy and physiotherapy sessions, deeply understands Ah Fong’s needs and habits. For example, Ms Gandecila recognises Ah Fong’s stressors and automatically finds a way to calm her. “If her favourite cup or towel is not in sight, we need to find it and give it to her, because I think that is her stress-reliever.”

We try our best to engage our clients as much as possible, … adjust formats here and there so that clients can still enjoy themselves.

Susan Goh
MINDS Occupational Therapist

Ms Goh tailors Ah Fong’s therapy sessions to her needs and likes, including items like colourful blocks and maracas, which aids in honing Ah Fong’s motor skills. When asked what a constant in Ah Fong’s routine has been over the years, Ms Gandecila and Ms Goh laughed in unison and agreed, “holding on to the ball.”

Ah Fong holds on firmly to her sponge ball, one of the items that brings her a sense of security.

Ms Gandecila notes how Ah Fong has become less active as she ages and how COVID-19 restrictions have taken a toll on Ah Fong’s emotional wellbeing. With constraints in the use of common spaces for leisure and therapy sessions, the staff and AHP team have creatively adapted their strategies to continue caring for residents’ physical and emotional needs. “Therapy-wise, what we do is that we bring the therapy sessions over to the dormitory,” Ms Goh shared. “We try our best to engage our clients as much as possible, … adjust formats here and there so that clients can still enjoy themselves.”

Occupational Therapist, Susan Goh, structures different activities to hone Ah Fong’s mobility, coordination and occupational skills.

Staff at [email protected] work around the clock to meet the needs of its residents. A team of 10 AHPs collaborate with care staff to customise and implement individualised care plans for residents, support the continuity of socialisation amongst fellow residents and staff, and provide regular recreation and leisure activities for their socio-emotional and mental wellbeing.

Of MINDSville’s 112 home residents, around 40% share Ah Fong’s plight. With an absence of biological family and relatives to support their physical and emotional needs, [email protected] staff and volunteers continue to step into the roles of caregivers, parents and siblings to residents like Ah Fong; interacting, caring, and growing with them through the years.

With advanced research and a growing understanding of intellectual and developmental disabilities, care for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities has evolved into personalised and tailored strategies to meet their needs across the disability spectrum and across their lifespan.

As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we celebrate our clients who have journeyed with us through the years.

MINDS provides an inclusive and caring environment for PWIDs, supporting their physical, mental and emotional needs as they age. Learn more about our residential services here.

To support us in our mission to improve the quality of life of PWIDs like Ah Fong, donate at https://www.minds.org.sg/donation/.

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NOTICE OF THE 59TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF MINDS: NOTICE is hereby given that the 59th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) will be held by way of electronic means as follows: Date: Saturday , 18 September 2020 Time: 9:30am (Registration starts at 8:30am) Venue: Online via ZOOM MINDS members will be receiving an email on the notice of AGM and are strongly encouraged to register your attendance to facilitate the verification process on the day of the AGM. For enquiries regardingthe AGM, members may email to [email protected] or call 849607358