Rita Kwan
Social Worker of Yaumatei Multi-service Centre for Senior Citizens

Ms Chin, aged 70, suffers from various diseases, including hypertension, chronic bronchitis, joint pain and osteoporosis, and has to attend regular medical follow-up consultations. Despite her old age and suffering from chronic diseases, Ms Chin needs to take care of her 73-year-old husband, who suffers from hypotension, diabetes, cataract and Parkinson’s disease.

It takes Ms Chin extra care and efforts in taking care of her bedridden husband when he needs to be carried around or repositioned. Her husband uses a walker to move around their home, but he needs a wheelchair when going out. Ms Chin stays close and gives around-the-clock care to her husband.

Ms Chin also changes her husband’s diapers regularly every night, so her sleep is significantly interrupted, leaving her deeply stressed and exhausted, both physically and emotionally.

Increased caregiving stress in the pandemic
As a member of The Salvation Army Carer Project, Ms Chin used to join the Project’s caregiving training and buy elderly formula milk or diapers through the Project. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, she experienced much greater stress in caregiving. In fact, during the pandemic, many caregivers have been carrying heavier goods when they shopped for various necessities, which has worsened their muscle and joint pains. In light of this, our Carer Project specially provided online exercises and activities to encourage carers to do physical exercises at home to improve their flexibility and balance.

Referred by the Carer Project, Ms Chin joined the “Stand-by U” Caregivers Community Support Project (Central Kowloon) last year. Since then, she has been taking part in stress-relieving activities, caregiving skill seminars, carer gatherings and accepted home visits. Through group sharing, she met many companions and former carers. These activities have given her comprehensive support to herself and other caring needs.

Relevant support for carers in the pandemic
After the fifth wave of the pandemic, Ms Chin’s family could not come over to visit them due to social distancing measures. Being homebound most of the time, feelings of helplessness and loneliness gradually gripped her. The Project started providing online activities to help carers stay in touch, at the same time pay attention to their own emotional changes and try to relax at times. Ms Chin actively participated in these activities. She learnt to use online platforms to communicate with other carers and share her own experiences and feelings. In this way, her stress, feelings of helplessness and loneliness were gradually relieved.

There have been massive flows of information during the pandemic which many carers found hard to digest. Staff of the Project helped screen and sort out the information to be released to the carers’ group, and also held online seminars to explain anti-epidemic information to elders and their carers. ‘I was brightened up after joining these activities,’ said Ms Chin after joining the Support Project. ‘I now know that I can seek help from you whenever I have problems. I’m no longer helpless,’ said Ms Chin to a staff of the Project.

Adhere to our position and walk with carers
Staff members of the Project have remained steadfast in their positions throughout the pandemic. The services might have switched online, but our staff members hoped to spread positive energy to these carers, helping them to leave some space to take care of themselves before taking care of their family.

The activities of the Project also helped reduce the sense of loneliness for carers and the elderly, so that they know they are not alone in coping with the caregiving stress and daily challenges. While the pandemic is still going on, our staff members continue to build a platform on which carers may keep on helping and staying with one another amid the pandemic!

Pandemics will come to an end one day. Ms Chin looks forward to going back to the Centre and join a mobile phone app training with other elderly members then. She wants to learn using communication software and phone photography to share more beautiful memories using smartphones. The Caregivers Community Support Project also hopes to continue walking with the elderly in the community in good times and bad.

‘The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.’  (Proverbs 20:29)