The LB Spirit – Going Beyond the Call of Duty

Rebecca Chua, a Social Worker with Lions Befrienders CCMS @ Clementi / Bukit Timah.

The Life of a Social Worker

Meet Rebecca Chua, a Social Worker who joined LB CCMS @ Clementi / Bukit Timah in January 2022. Rebecca’s passion for social work stems from her involvement in her church’s volunteering activities over the years, from which she developed a sense of mission towards empowering seniors who lack the means to cope with their circumstances.

A typical day for Rebecca would entail home visits to the cases she is assigned to, where she monitors the seniors’ daily living activities such as eating, toileting, ambulation, and their overall state of well-being. From there, she links each case up with appropriate service providers ranging from Meals on Wheels and Home Personal Care (HPC) to Befriending, among others. But her job does not stop there. Periodically, she checks in on the seniors to ensure that these services are the right fit for them, and that the seniors are able to adapt both physically and mentally to the arrangements.

Social work can be challenging and emotionally draining. Unlike many occupations whereby it is possible for one to detach work from personal life, Rebecca has to establish rapport with each senior, especially those who are unwilling to open up. That means having to display her sincerity by genuinely caring for them, gradually gaining their trust and acceptance over time. These feelings are certainly not something she can simply shrug off at the end of each working day, so she constantly needs to guard herself and practise self-care.

Rebecca manages cases involving vulnerable seniors with little or no family support.

The Case of Mdm T

When Rebecca was assigned to one particular case, Mdm T (not her real name), it became apparent that the situation called for more than the normal set of procedures that could be followed.

Mdm T, in her 70s, lived in a flat together with her helper of 10 years, as well as her elder sister who was suffering from dementia. Although Mdm T did not have trouble with her physical movements, she had been inundated with suicidal thoughts which manifested during the COVID-19 pandemic. Often, she would verbalise these thoughts to her helper late at night, and on several occasions threatened to commit suicide. The helper was greatly stressed and frightened, and desperately wanted to leave her employer, but Mdm T had grown so attached to her that she refused to hear any of it.

For such a case, multiple agencies had to be roped in as it concerned not just Mdm T, but also her wantaway helper and her frail sister. Firstly, Mdm T wished to do a lease buyback for her flat that she co-owned with her sister, so the Legal Aid Bureau was engaged to help her with the process. However, her sister’s state of health meant that she was not legally able to agree to the lease buyback, thus another solution had to be found to provide Mdm T with a source of income.

In the meantime, with Mdm T refusing to accept her helper’s repeated attempts to resign, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was made aware of the employee’s plight. Given the MOM’s green light, Rebecca assisted the helper with an exit plan – which was to set a specific date to leave without her employer’s knowledge, and for Rebecca to deal with the ensuing fall-out.

As it turned out, Mdm T was devastated when she realised that her helper had left her, and was evidently at risk of hurting herself, prompting the police to be contacted. Rebecca herself stayed close by Mdm T’s side, ensuring that she was not left alone until she finally calmed down and came to grips with reality.

Now that Mdm T’s sister could no longer be adequately taken care of at home, which had since become an unsafe environment, the Adult Protective Service was brought in to attend to the case, and the dementia patient was linked up with a hospital Social Worker to look after her needs.

Mdm T herself was hospitalised for a short period before she returned to her flat. Rebecca followed up closely by working with a nearby church to run outreach services for her. Her sister had been placed in a nursing home, allowing Mdm T to rent out part of her flat to two tenants for income, as an alternative to the lease buyback plan that previously fell through.

Recently, another unfortunate event struck Mdm T when her sister passed on in the hospital, after her health had deteriorated while staying at the nursing home. Breaking down upon hearing the news, Mdm T was at a total loss, so Rebecca accompanied her to approach a funeral parlour service, requesting their help to conduct last rites for her sister on a pro bono basis.

Rebecca continues to visit Mdm T at least once a month to check that she is now well settled. Looking back, Rebecca’s heart goes out to Mdm T. “It was definitely not easy to have her only family member separated from her,” she reflects. “However, managing cases like this makes me feel that my work is meaningful as we journey through the difficult times with them and empower them to be resilient when facing adversity in life.”

A certificate of recognition was awarded to Rebecca for her dedication in the handling of Mdm T’s case.

Joint Effort and Recognition

The case of Mdm T is a shining example of how various agencies in Singapore quickly come together to assist those who are in dire need of social support. In this instance, as many as seven different agencies were involved. Despite the complexity of the case, Rebecca’s determination to aid Mdm T in every possible way was resolute throughout.

The joint effort of these agencies did not go unnoticed, and Rebecca, along with her community partners, were given the S3D SPOT Award by the Social Service Office in 2022, in recognition of their invaluable contributions.

Congratulations to Rebecca, and we salute you for showing the LB spirit, going beyond the call of duty to make a life-changing impact in your work!