Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mistreatment at nursing home : Implement reward system for workers

This letter written by Raymond Anthony Fernando is published in The New Paper today, Friday 17 June 2011, page 20.
It is shocking to read the report of mistreatment of the elderly woman in the Nightingale Nursing Home, “Nightmare at the Nightingale” (The New Paper on Friday, June 10).

To ill treat a defenceless elderly woman who suffered a stroke is inhumane and unacceptable. I am surprised that the abusers have got away with just being disciplined.

Do they not know that a woman's modesty should be protected at all cost, and that to slap a helpless old lady on the mouth can be very painful?

Was this the only time the senior citizen was abused or were there other instances?

Under the elder abuse laws, the perpetrators should be brought to court for physical, and possibly, verbal abuse.

Otherwise occurrences of such abuses will continue and some cases of ill treatment may even go undetected.

While managing persons with chronic illnesses and disabilities is not the easiest task, professional caregivers who are entrusted to care for the sick must practise patience and perseverance that can help to lift the human spirit and lead the afflicted ones to recovery.

In this respect, I propose that the Government implements an attractive reward system that recognises professional health-care workers in nursing homes who go the extra mile in caring for their charges, just as they do in public hospitals.

Caregivers should also be encouraged to visit their sick relatives frequently and to this end, it is necessary to ensure that all nursing homes are easily accessible to members of the public in terms of buses – be it from public transport companies or feeder bus services.

Caregiving, whether it comes from professional health-care workers or family members must be promoted as a noble job.

I therefore revisit an idea which I proposed a few times to the Government - give a caregiver's allowance that can help family members take on this task rather than place them in nursing homes, bearing in mind that looking after a person with disabilities or chronic illnesses requires supervision 24/7.

Unannounced visits at nursing homes and hospitals by officials from the Ministry of Health (MOH), coupled with six monthly feedback assessments from relatives on the service levels at these homes, that can be summarised by the home's administrators to MOH should also be put in place.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Welcome message

                        “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”
- Oscar Wilde -

Dear Readers & Bloggers,
A warm welcome to our newly set-up blog- Reach for the stars.

“Many people believe that there is light only when the sun comes up. And when night falls, there is darkness. But they forget that there is still light at night - no darkness because God gave us the stars and the moon.
And because the stars are so beautiful, it can lift the human spirit.

I would like to extract a few paragraphs from Chapter 13 of my advocacy book - A Choice, A Voice, A Cause: One man's advocacy on social issues. The title of this chapter is: “Are you looking for stars?” This has a bearing on why I have chosen this title for our blog. A blog which is jointly hosted by my wife, Doris Lau and myself.

I guess when popular singer of the '60s, Garry Miles sang his smash hit, “Look for a star”, he must have been inspired by the beauty of the stars. “Look for a star,” which charted at number 26 on the United State's Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, is from the movie “Circus of Horrors.”

The opening lyrics goes like this:
“When life doesn't seem worth the living
And you don't really care who you are
When you feel there is no one beside you
Look for a star

When you know you're alone and so lonely
And your friends have traveled afar
There is someone waiting to guide you
Look for a star”

I often look at the stars at night to draw my inspiration or when my mood is at an all time low, such as when Doris suffers a relapse of her mental illness. Perhaps people going through depression or struggles in life may want to listen to this song as it can be a good morale booster. Certainly, it does help to lift my mood when I am out of sorts.
Sometimes when  Doris and I will look out of our window at night and just admire the beautiful stars at night. She once showed me what a shooting star is. It was awesome! Some people believe that if you wish upon a shooting star, your wish will come true”.


Despite having to cope with schizophrenia and severe arthritis, amongst other health ailments, Doris has made significant contributions to the arts scene. She has 5 books to her name – 4 of which has been sold in record time- between 2 to 3 months.


On 17th September 2008, three healthcare workers from Japan together with Staff Nurse Leow from IMH's Community Psychiatric Department visited us. The three Japanese included a psychiatrist, Dr Yutaro Setoya, Section Chief of the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation of the National Institute of Mental Health (NCNP), a psychologist, Dr Naoko Satake and Miss Shimura Tomoko, a social worker.

The visit was part of IMH’s community programme to provide on-going support to patients who have been discharged from the hospital. This is an excellent programme that should be expanded to reach out to as many patients as possible.

The  visitors were amazed at Doris’ recovery and were pleasantly surprised that my wife is an author of several books.

“Has anyone in Japan who has mental illness authored any books like my wife has, Dr Setoya?” I asked the Japanese psychiatrist.

“They  have written some articles and it has been published in journals. But no one has written any books. Your wife has done remarkably well. You are a good husband, Raymond,” Dr Setoya commended both of us.

Professor Liberman, a world famous psychiatrist who was the keynote speaker at the Asia Pacific Conference organised by IMH in October 2008, asked me how I have managed to help Doris become an author of several books. He was amazed at her talent. He agreed with me that “it's constant encouragement, constant motivation and constant support” that has enabled Doris to chart new directions in life. Prof Liberman suggested I join IMH and coach the staff there on recovery.

Many people, including caregivers who have come by our home or who have purchased and read Doris' books are pleasantly surprised by her talent. Doris, I believe can be a role model for all patients to emulate. This is why the Ministry of Health, the Health Promotion Board, IMH and all related agencies should promote her achievements.


Doris will be making contributions to this blog as I want her to come up in life. She will share some of her tasty dishes on this blog. This is very much her blog as it is mine.

In closing, I encourage anyone who is facing adversities or challenges in life, to be inspired by what Irish writer Oscar Wilde once said: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” This famous quote was in fact what changed Doris' mind when she was sceptical about writing her very 1st book- “Cook with Love” .

Two days ago, Doris told me something which really uplifted me: " I want to write another cookbook, Ray. I am so encouraged by the support which many of my readers, especially the catholics, have given me."

You are welcome to give us your feedback/comments at this email address:
Raymond Anthony Fernando