Ageing Lines: Stories from Caregivers and Elderly Patients

This is a space dedicated to caregivers and elderly patients, created with anonymous collaborations from the WONCA Special Interest Group on Ageing and Health. This section includes inspiring anecdotes for the simple purpose of adding value and quality to older patient’s lives.

June 2021

Leveraging technology to deliver care to seniors during the Covid19 pandemic

Contributed by SingHealth Polyclinics, Singapore

The Covid19 pandemic has resulted in the widespread adoption of telemedicine. In Singapore, Family Physicians in SingHealth Polyclinics similarly adopted telehealth to complement patient care through the use of video consultation. Since August 2020, video consultation has replaced some physical visits for the elderly patients of two SingHealth Polyclinics, enabling them to have continuity of quality care in the safety of their own homes, reducing their exposure to the coronavirus. After the video consultation, medication for their chronic conditions would be delivered to their homes. Video consultations also provide the advantages of convenience, reduced travelling and waiting times.

However, many seniors are not IT-savvy and do not have access to the necessary Internet-enabled devices. To overcome these barriers, our partners at senior activity centres located near the homes of these patients, as well as community nurses, were roped in to facilitate the video consultations at the centres or in the patients' homes. Volunteers were also deployed to deliver the necessary equipment for video consultation, such as iPads and blood pressure monitors, to the senior’s homes.

These volunteers also took the opportunity to train the seniors and their caregivers in the use of technology so they can participate in video consultations on their own.

May 2021

The Golden Angels Platform: Using technology for social support and well- being of older adults

The uncertainty and fear of COVID-19 has had significant psychosocial impact on human life. Anxiety, insomnia, stress, depression, loss of interest, worrying about self and family are some of the major emotional responses world-wide and among them, the elderly are the most vulnerable. The elders who were independent prior to COVID-19 became dependent on others for their day-to-day needs. The required social distancing created further mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, feeling of isolation, frustration and depression, sometimes resulting in erratic behavior.
To address these issues, a social welfare entity in Pakistan (the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board) launched an initiative titled the Golden Angels to address the issues of social isolation and concerns about physical health and mental wellbeing. 

To this end, the team leveraged available technologies (e.g., Goto meetings, Zoom) to connect older adults from around the country. Starting April 2020, two-hour LIVE sessions were conducted on various topics from health & active living, book reviews, fun activities (Live musical performance and competitions.

Sessions started with five minutes of deep breathing and laughter therapy, followed by a moderated session with Q& A time. Family members, volunteers and caregivers, helped seniors use of mobile phones and various apps.  The health sessions included stress management, home exercises and allowed participants to not only interact with experts but also socialize with each other. As the sessions progressed, a clear sense of camaraderie developed among the participants, some of whom attended sessions with family members, especially their grandchildren. Soon, the reach of the Golden Angel program grew to include community members residing in other regions like North America, Middle East, and Australia/New Zealand, who attending sessions despite the time difference.


April 2021

"Many family physicians in Singapore work in community hospitals which provide convalescence and rehabilitation care to seniors who are in their post acute phase of illness. My team and I work closely with link workers (called well being co-ordinators in Singapore) who provide social prescribing to improve the well-being of our patients.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit our shores, the social isolation of our patients were severely aggravated. Mobile technology and social media became an essential means of maintaining social connections. Entry to shops and supermarkets require the use of contact tracing apps that run on QR codes and mobile phones. Most of our patients are unfamiliar with the use of apps on mobile phones. Our link workers decided to do something about it and introduced e-social prescribing. Using the principles of elder-friendly pedagogy, we designed and developed simple lessons that teach smartphone skills such as Connecting to Wi-Fi, QR Code Scanning and use of WhatsApp for staying in touch with friends and family. Much to everyone's surprise, many of our elderly patients responded enthusiastically. The greatest reward for our team was to see the gleam of pride and confidence in the eyes of our patients when they whipped out their smartphones and started calling and messaging their friends and family. They are an inspiration and reminded us that one is never too old to learn.”

March 2021

"I have a 97 year old patient who tells me that one of the joys of his life is to watch the sunset light up trees outside his bedroom window.
We often underestimate how much pleasure nature can bring our older patients. Perhaps we should encourage them or their family members to get outside, or place them so they can look through the window, or if that is not possible, to have a pot plant or some flowers nearby to give them some pleasure."