Thursday, February 14, 2019

Medical doctor joins Community Care sector to do more for elderly

Dr Jamie Phang started out as a medical doctor in 2000 and switched gears to join the Community Care sector. As the Cluster Director of Community Eldercare Services at Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), she aims to transform caring for elders from a ‘Do for You’ approach to a ‘Do with You’ approach. She also hopes to encourage seniors to take charge of their own well-being.

What was your earliest exposure to the healthcare/social care/Community care sectors?

My first exposure to geriatric care was during a rotation in geriatric medicine at Changi General Hospital in 2003. I was impressed with the holistic approach to assessing and treating elderly patients.

I was introduced to home care through a nurse I met previously while doing crisis-relief work. That sparked my interest and I started work with TOUCH Home Care in 2005. I was inspired by their practice of the wraparound model for the vulnerable elderly. I fell in love with this philosophy of community-based and family-centred care and have stayed in the sector since.

What was your previous work experience before you joined MWS?

In 2006, I was with the geriatric medicine department at Changi General Hospital while pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Geriatric Medicine. In the six years there, I worked at the specialist outpatient clinic, the geriatric day hospital, and was also part of the transitional care team.

I moved to the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) in 2013 and joined the HOME programme, where I helped in the development of ‘Implementation Guides’ to the ‘Guidelines for Home Care’. My invaluable experience in AIC is put to good use when I joined Methodist Welfare Services in 2015, where I set up the new home care service.  

What are some of the new plans you have for MWS’s Community Eldercare?

MWS embarked on a corporate re-organisation exercise in 2017 to streamline ourselves to better serve the community. We clustered together MWS’s eldercare services such as Home Care, Home Hospice and seven Senior Activity Centres (SACs). The move is to leverage the strengths of each service and the potential synergy between the services to better support the dignified ageing-in-place of the seniors MWS reaches out to.

This is a move to work towards our vision of promoting total well-being and actively supporting seniors, in good health or otherwise, who wish to continue to live in their homes. Our three services need to move from a provider-centric model of service delivery to a user-centric one. This means to assess seniors’ needs holistically and to provide an integrated care solution.

Are there any success stories with this new approach?

MWS first knew Mr L through our Home Care service, where he received home nursing, medical and therapy services. When his physical function improved, he visited the MWS Senior Activity Centre near his home for social and cognitive engagement. The SAC was also roped in to provide reminders on his diet restrictions.  

When Mr L’s condition deteriorated, he chose to enrol in the MWS home hospice service instead of entering the hospital for treatment. The same nurse and doctor who attended to him previously continued to care for him. This provided relief to his family members, as they were familiar with the team.

By staying at home, Mr L had the choice to continue his visits to the SAC to catch up with friends on days that he feels good.

The MWS team had the privilege to stay with him till his passing. At his wake, Mr L’s friends at the SAC shared stories of him with his bereaved family, which comforted them.

Mr L’s case is an example of how the shift from a provider-directed to a senior-directed service can work. On top of that, we also hope to move towards a collaborative “You Do I support” practice where we encourage seniors to take charge of their own well-being. This will go a long way to build a community of care that goes beyond the resources of MWS.

Tell us something about yourself not many people know.

Many people think I am health-conscious and careful about what I eat. My favourite foods are chee cheong fun soaked in thick black sweet sauce and sesame seeds, and roti prata with lots of curry and sugar. Yum! To earn the license to indulge, I’ve been eating a portion of rolled oats every morning before work for the last 15 years, soaked in nothing but plain hot water. Try it!

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