Walking the Talk
Two of LB’s befrienders, Linda and Lay Guat were introduced to the late Mdm Thong in March 2012. Their regular home visits and constant outpouring of love and concern towards Mdm Thong broke the ice and a solid Befriender-Befriendee relationship soon began to take root. Mdm Thong took delight in sharing with them many photo albums of hers, some of which were portraits from her younger days. Linda and Lay Guat were simply awed by her beauty!
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, all home visits have been suspended during the Circuit Breaker period and volunteering efforts were directed to the distribution of food rations and essentials. Marilyn’s team prioritises the seniors’ safety and well-being by preparing surgical masks, face shields and adhering to all precautionary measures during the packing and distribution. Beyond carrying out the tasks on hand, Marilyn makes the additional effort to get to know the seniors, find out their needs and individual life stories. It’s in her caring nature to caution seniors of the food or drinks not to consume for their well-being. She also checks on other seniors when she makes her rounds, ensuring that they wear their masks properly and keep a safe distance in public places. Many of these residents would greet, wave or smile at Marilyn when they see her in the vicinity.
Mdm Thong’s dementia began to set in when she was hospitalised during an occasion. With its onset, Linda and Lay Guat had to switch to activities that could help stimulate Mdm Thong’s mind. They introduced board games and poker card games that involved counting and were pleasantly surprised to find Mdm Thong’s mental calculation just as good as before. Linda even picked up Mahjong from Mdm Thong, who claimed that it was her favourite pastime in her younger days. Despite being in her eighties, Mdm Thong won many rounds of their Mahjong games. During one of the visits, Linda and Lay Guat noticed that her fingernails were painted (by the helper) and encouraged Mdm Thong to paint theirs, in hope to mobilise her motor skills. Mdm Thong readily agreed and took pride in completing this task.
However, with each passing day, Mdm Thong’s condition gradually worsened, till the point she could no longer consume her food. Her body weakened and she spoke lesser. In late September 2019, Mdm Thong was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and malnutrition. Upon a thorough body check-up, Mdm Thong received the shocking diagnosis of a stage three cancer. Although she was discharged the week after, she was still unable to respond or communicate with people. A week later, Linda received the inevitable news of Mdm Thong’s passing from Mdm Thong’s daughter. Mdm Thong celebrated her last birthday in July 2019 with Linda and Lay Guat, one that was filled with so much laughter and wonderful memories.
Looking back, Linda couldn’t be more grateful for this friendship with Mdm Thong. It was a joy to have journeyed with her through ups and downs, and witnessed her changes, be it emotionally or psychologically in the past seven years. “Mdm Thong’s case changed my perspective of volunteering” said Lay Guat. She was sceptical of her case initially, but after knowing her better through the years, Lay Guat understood that Mdm Thong was just a senior in need of companionship and a genuine friendship. She would never forget how Mdm Thong offered them a drink at every home visit. Linda and Lay Guat, as Befrienders, not only brought cheer, comfort and companionship, but also established a personal and lasting bond with Mdm Thong. They know for certain that this experience would be etched in their memory, for a long time to come.