You CAN make a difference too

“Zhi Ling is very, very good,” Mr Goh exclaims repeatedly, while gesturing fervently towards the young woman seated opposite him. He peppers his sentences with earnest nods, making his conviction evident.

Zhi Ling has been Mr Goh’s Caring Assistance from Neighbours (CAN) carer for over a year. As his CAN carer, she visits him at his home every week and assists Lions Befrienders (LB) staff to ensure his overall well-being. CAN carers and LB staff work together hand in hand; the former help to monitor and remind their seniors to take their medication dutifully and go for medical appointments, and should there be any negative changes in the seniors’ well-being, the staff will be alerted to take follow-up action. In this aspect, Zhi Ling has played an integral role. She acts as a middleman, and helps to highlight medical related issues to the home nursing staff. With his age catching up with him, Zhi Ling’s constant health reminders prove to be a means of combating Mr Goh’s declining memory.

Exemplifying this point, Mr Goh turns to Zhi Ling and asks “Can you remind me again?” Lamenting that he has an extremely strict diet to abide by during the days leading up to his CT colonography appointment, he ruffles his hair in slight annoyance and laughs sheepishly.

The bond forged between them is apparent from the numerous praises sung about Zhi Ling’s admirable qualities, the easy flow of conversation and mutual understanding they share. In particular, it is worth noting how observant Zhi Ling is to Mr Goh’s emotions. Picking up on the slightest quiver in his voice as he divulges the burdens riding on his shoulders, she immediately checks on him with a concerned “Are you okay?” These simple three words, while seemingly insignificant, reveal the degree of attentiveness Zhi Ling displays towards Mr Goh and offers boundless warmth – there is comfort in the knowledge that one is cared for, such that the subtlest of changes in emotions do not go unnoticed.

Before Mr Goh can answer how Zhi Ling has impacted his life, she playfully chimes in that he can feel free to comment on her negative points without her taking offence. To which, he replies with a rhetorical question without any trace of hesitation “What’s not good about you?”

One can hardly disagree with Mr Goh’s response. As a CAN carer, the commitment required is not to be underestimated. Zhi Ling admits that one of the challenges she faces is the scheduling of her appointments, as she has to ensure that her plans do not clash with her Saturday visits to Mr Goh’s home. Her efforts are, however, not unpaid. Her face lights up as she recounts how she is heartened by the establishment of trust in their relationship over the span of the year as Mr Goh’s CAN carer. Moved by her sincerity, Mr Goh has begun confiding in Zhi Ling, even regarding personal matters which he fears sharing with his kin.

“You don’t need any skills, you just need to be a human,” Zhi Ling shrugs, the corners of her mouth turning up in a smile. To those who are daunted by the prospect of volunteering, she offers a piece of advice: to just jump in and get to know the seniors as fellow humans with individual strengths and achievements, instead of a client or forgotten elderly. Zhi Ling and Mr Goh’s story highlights the crucial role that volunteers alike her undertake in alleviating the lives of seniors at risk of social isolation. With the addition of each volunteer, the dim world of these seniors gets a tad bit brighter. Join Lions Befrienders as a CAN carer today, and make a difference.

Text & photo by Janelle Quek