Reflections from a Millennial Intern
Blossom Seeds was fortunate to have our very first intern Ms Michelle Chung, a psychology major from Singapore Management University joining us for a 1 month attachment Jul-Aug. This article is contributed by her.
My goals in Blossom Seeds (BSL) was simple. I just wanted to learn more about the elderly and how to take care of them. I wanted to get a bigger perspective. The most contact I have with the elderly is with my grandparents, and fortunately for me, they are healthy and well. However, no one knows what the future will be like, which was why I wanted to learn more about how to take care of the various conditions elderly may suffer from or have.
SOME INTERESTING CHALLENGES
There was a lot of travelling and waiting during the volunteer hours. If there was no client, I usually find some ways to entertain myself, such as reading up about the client or writing down thoughts and observations about befriending sessions. If I’m waiting with a client during the medical escort, I’ll need to put in more effort, such as striking up a conversation, or making sure they are comfortable on their wheelchair. I had been advised to use this chance to learn more about the client, adding on to their case file. Things to note are their physical and emotional states. How have they improved since their last doctor’s appointment? Have they been feeling sad lately? Any supporting family members or friends?
When I first started, I felt that I did not know how to interact with the elderly. Most of them spoke only in dialect, which I felt was a barrier to communication. However, I learnt that there were still some things I could do to interact with elderly without knowing dialect. Once, I visited a grandma who had card games to help stimulate her mind (she had mild dementia). We had fun playing the card games and I was glad that we spent an enjoyable time together. Now, I’ve been trying to learn a few sentences of dialect, such as “Lei hou ma”, which is Cantonese for “how are you?”. When talking with them, I would try to guess what they were talking about by inferring from the context and situation we were in.
One of the first clients I visited was wheel-chair bound. At first, I had a lot of difficulty maneuvering it. It was especially hard to push it over drainage holes on the ground. I would lift the wheelchair up by pressing down with my foot, but have it bump down too hard when I let go. I’m sure this must have caused a lot of discomfort for the client, especially when heading back from the medical appointment, where the client will be in more pain. After practicing this several times, I felt that I was better at it, and is able to let the wheelchair down more gently than before. Being able to push a wheelchair can help in many different situations, so I’m glad I got this opportunity to learn about it.
CLIENTS WHOSE WAYS HAVE TOUCHED ME.
When I was heading to a befriending session with a BSL staff member, he briefly explained about the client whom we would be seeing. She was an elderly living alone in her house. She has one daughter living overseas who has not visited her in years. Hence, needed befriending in order not to be socially isolated. In my mind, I was imagining a sad lady, and I felt I must be very careful when talking about sensitive issues. When we arrived at her house, she was cooking in the kitchen. She shouted at us that the door was open and to just come in. We entered the kitchen to find her cooking bee hoon (a kind of local noodles). She was cooking lunch and said that it was meant for us as well. At that moment, I was very touched and shocked because she was going out of her way to cook extra to share a meal with us. There were also some workers who were repairing her house, and she insisted that they eat some as well. I found out she really enjoyed cooking and likes sharing her meals with others. She was very homely and friendly, and I hope to be like her when I grow old.
Overall, it has been an interesting 4 weeks with Blossom Seeds Limited and to be able to be on the ground supporting the needy elderly and seniors.