“You do not feel lonely in life because you know there are people around you,” said 60 year old Ho Ngit Wah.
On every Wednesday before 9am, Ho would be sitting at the waiting lounge in Tzu Chi’s Lakeside Family Medical Clinic, reading a newspaper and checking her mobile phone while she waits for Tzu Chi's home care service nurse, Pan Han Ni to get the medical supplies ready before they depart to the homes of their patients for home care visits. Both of them would visit 3 to 4 patients for each outing.
Ho Ngit Wah is the daughter of Madam Foo, a patient cared for by Tzu Chi’s Home Care team. Madam Foo is a dementia patient who also suffers from high blood pressure and Cholecystolithiasis. Since February 2019, Madam Foo started receiving home care services where she is visited by the home care team every month to measure her blood pressure and keep track of the development of her dementia.
As it is unsuitable for Madam Foo to go through an operation to remove her gallstone due to advance age, the medical team also conducts pain assessment and management for Madam Foo to alleviate her pain and stabilize her condition through medication. Pan shared that Madam Foo refused to eat or drink and appeared very weak and occasionally in deep slumber when she first met her, while her daughter, Ho Ngit Wah was tensed and tired.
"My mother's condition was very serious at that time, and I was on the verge of mental breakdown," confessed Ho about the helplessness and stress she felt when her mother was severely ill. Despite having a live-in maid, Ho is almost fully responsible for looking after her mother. She’s been working during the day and looking after her mother at night for years. As a long term caregiver, she was under a lot of stress and there was no outlet for her to release her tension and worries.
Relieved by the timely assistance given by the medical team
Everything remained the same for Ho until Tzu Chi’s medical team stepped in to help. Besides providing medical treatment to the patient, the doctors and paramedics also care for the patient. Ho would also call Pan every time her mother shows any sign of emergency.
“Tzu Chi volunteers are like 7 Eleven convenience stores, whenever my mother is having any sudden physical condition, their presence is only a phone call away, and that relieves me a lot," shared Ho, whom is very touched by the timely help provided by both volunteers and medical team. With the timely and consistent care and assistance from the medical team, Ho gradually walked out of despair.
"Nancy (Tzu Chi's nursing staff) also gave me a hug!" said Ho. During the medical consultation session, the nursing staff or volunteers would give Ho a hug and ask her how she is doing, such gentle gestures are all it takes to warm her heart.
"The person who impresses me the most is Dr. Ho (Dr. Ho Xin Qin from Tzu Chi Lakeside Medical Center), she comforted me when I was at the verge of mental breakdown due to my mother’s health condition,” Ho said.
On 13 May last year, Ho was invited to attend the 53rd Tzu Chi Buddha Day Ceremony where she found spiritual comfort in the solemnity of the ceremony. On 20 May of the same year, the medical team and volunteers visited Madam Foo at her home for a Mini Buddha Bathing ceremony. Ho’s elder sister and two cousins were also invited by Ho to pay respect to the Buddha at their home. On that day, the sisters also showed gratitude to their mother by presenting flowers and cleaning her feet.
Understanding how difficult it is for Ho to bring Madam Foo out single handedly, volunteers once took Madam Foo to a nearby hawker center for lunch. The sudden request by Madam Foo to go travelling together had also prompted Pan to plan for an outing activity without being asked. On the day of the trip, a volunteer was arranged to drive Madam Foo around and Madam Foo was carefully looked after throughout the day trip. The elderly Madam Foo was very happy about the outing as she has not been out of her house for a long time. Pan said that an outing to get in touch with others can help delay the deterioration of dementia patient.
Becoming a medical volunteer to pay it forward
Ho had actually heard of Tzu Chi in the past, but she was only prompted to know more about the foundation after noticing that the doctors and volunteers are treating her mother like their own family. The medical treatment and companionship by the healthcare workers and volunteers have inspired Ho to join the ranks of the volunteers. One day, Ho expressed her wish to participate in the home care services to Pan. She subsequent went through Tzu Chi’s volunteers’ training session and started her volunteering journey with Tzu Chi.
Despite being new to Tzu Chi, Ho now volunteers in home care services once to twice a week. She is able to relate to family members who are caregivers like herself, therefore, besides helping to measure blood pressure and temperature of the patient, she also takes the initiative to care for the family members of the patient.
“I find being a caregiver to be a very tiring task, I would tell her (the family member) to take good care of herself and pay more attention to her health. We must not only take care of the patient, we should care for the caregiver too, the caregiver deserves a little more care,” said Ho.
By volunteering in home care services, Ho came across a lot more families that are facing hardships in life, many of them are lonely elderly people while some are bedridden stroke patients who have been sick for many years. Ho who has endured a lot of stress as a caregiver found that there are many people who are suffering more than her. As she reflected on her own situation, she found that she is in fact better off as compared to them.
Pan Han Ni opined, “Not only is she helping our medical team by serving others, she is also helping herself.”
A good relationship between the medical team and the patient’s family has turned into a new virtuous cycle. Ho now knows that she is not alone in life and she too can offer the much needed help to others in need.