Safeguarding the Well-Being of Seniors & Persons with Disabilities

Health risks loom large as people age. Home-based monitoring systems for older adults, especially those living alone, have been helpful in negating serious challenges and providing high-quality care to the elderly in the comfort of their homes. Singapore Red Cross’ (SRC) Home Monitoring and Eldercare (HoME+) system is a wonderful endeavour to empower seniors living alone and persons with disabilities to manage their chronic conditions efficiently and get instant support 24*7. 

Read on to learn how SRC’s HoME+ system has been a blessing for Mr Rajoo Shunmugam, who lives alone at the age of 84 and suffers from multiple illnesses. Despite his challenges, Mr. Rajoo leads an inspiring life full of hope and positivity.

Ageing can be both physically and mentally daunting. Just as each of us is different, so is our ability to cope with the challenges life throws at us. Common factors such as lifestyle, heredity and personal circumstances significantly impact our physical and mental health as we age.

While most of us struggle to deal with the hardships of disabilities and old age, people like Mr Shunmugam do it with grit and pragmatism against all odds. He believes “life is a precious gift from God” — one that he cherishes every moment. 

Overcoming Adversity with an Indomitable Spirit

Born with a spinal disorder, Mr Shunmugam could not walk until the age of nine and had difficulties passing urine. With no formal schooling and little family support, life was challenging for him from the word go. He could not attend a formal school because of his disability, but his desire to get educated did not falter. Undeterred, he attended private night schools initiated by the government for students from vulnerable families, where he learnt fluent English and Mathematics. Subsequently, he was employed as a clerical staff with Singapore Power. 

A few years later, Mr Shunmugam was diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, and kidney problems in addition to his existing spinal disorder. At 28, he had to undergo an operation, but he did not let any of his sufferings affect his zest to live. For the braveheart that he is, he lives by his mantra, 'Never ask why, but always find a solution.'

He shared that he found inspiration from Helen Keller, who triumphed over visual and audio impairments, and a blind boy he met on the road once. He recalls that when he offered assistance to the blind boy, the latter asked him if he would be there the next day to help him. Mr Shunmugam's response was negative. The boy then replied that he would prefer to cross the road by himself and learn to live with his disability rather than depend on people to help him. That day, the boy taught an important lesson to Mr Shunmugam - the power of independence - something that has stayed with him to date. 

Mr Shunmugam's positive outlook has led him to achieve many milestones in life. From purchasing his own flat and taking off on solo vacations to Australia, Europe, India, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka by himself (after his amputation with prosthetic legs) to taking the significant step of tying the knot, which eventually did not unfold as planned, he has done it all. 

Mr. Rajoo has been living alone for several years now. "My disability is not a barrier. I am the architect of my life. Happiness or sorrow lies in my hands. Despite the challenges I face in life, I am determined to look on the bright side of life. I don't want to be pitied and a nuisance to others. I want to be independent, and I try not to trouble my siblings," he says. 

His tenacity to live life to the fullest signals his indomitable spirit, fortitude and resilience to overcome adversity. 

Safeguarding the Safety and Well-being of Seniors

During one of his health checkups, the doctors realised that it was time for Mr Shunmugam to receive special support and assistance, as he was no longer capable of managing on his own. They provided feedback to the social ward that assessed his living and health conditions. Upon learning of Mr Rajoo’s situation, the SRC sprung into action and provided him with the Home Monitoring and Eldercare (HoME+) system.

The HoME+ system, comprising four motion sensors and two panic buttons, was installed in his home. Four motion sensors, which are non-intrusive and without CCTV, were installed in the living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom to track his daily movements and detect any inactivity. 

Mr Shunmugam shares with pride that panic buttons were installed conveniently and accessibly; one was mounted on the wall beside his bed, and another is a portable panic button that he carries around with him around his home. He simply needs to press the panic button whenever he requires help. When he activates the panic button, he would receive a call from the call centre to check on him. Even in the event that he is unable to pick up the phone calls, he can rest assured that Community Responders will be deployed to render assistance.

"With the HoME+ system at my fingertips, I am confident and assured about getting instant assistance in the event of an emergency," Mr Shunmugam says.

For Mr Shunmugam, the SRC's HoME+ system turned out to be a blessing. He cites George E. Mueller’s quote, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. I am very appreciative of the efforts undertaken by the HoME+ team in addressing my needs," he says.

He recommends the HoME+ system to seniors and persons with disabilities.

"I am grateful to be a beneficiary of this HoME+ system. Now my home is safe and secure, with caregivers merely a click away. I strongly believe that seniors and persons with disabilities living alone who need a strong and reliable support system can benefit greatly from SRC's HoME+ system," he says.

By Shweta Musale, Volunteer 
Copyedited by Pooja Ranjan Kumar, Volunteer, and Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications


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