A netizen, Ms Chong, shared about an incident at Jem shopping centre involving a woman in her early 70s with dementia and her son, described as having “anger management issues”, whose shouts emanating from the handicap toilet cubicle drew the attention of those nearby.
In a post on Facebook on 12 August, Ms Chong shared, “What I saw and what I heard, nearly drove me to tears at one point. It was very easy to draw certain conclusions, which might even be factual, but, sometimes, we have to look beyond before we judge.”
She said that a group of concerned staff from Japanese discount store Don Don Donki nearby immediately called on security for help when they heard the commotion.
Ms Chong recounted, “And then the incredibly lovely Mariama from the security team came, who gave her lovely mom touch… and chained her arm around the old lady’s arm throughout… to offer comfort despite the language barrier.”
Another security team member was on hand to take control of the situation and offer instructions while “managing” the son before the police arrived. Ms Chong added that the authorities arrived “with a cool head”.
She continued, “David Tan, probably from building management Jem Lendlease came down and used his superb people skills to joke and distract auntie so she would calm down.”
“She was obviously traumatised and upset but took to him immediately because of his reassurances in Hokkien.”
Also, a person named Carmen from the Love, Bonito store was approached for help and she “immediate took a dress of the racks to hand to the passers-by with no question asked,” said the netizen.
When the police arrived, the officer named Imran Moosa was said to have paid for the dress out of his own pocket when he noticed the security tag still on it, saying in good humour, “No shop theft was committed!”
Ms Chong added, “He shared how he has someone with special needs at home too and gamely played hi-5 claps with her.”
The officer also noticed a cut on the old woman’s lips.
“The SPF was full of compassion, listening to the man as he poured his woes, contacting all relevant agencies to help both the mum and the son,” said Ms Chong.
Another officer “managed the man’s emotions and spoke to him to calm him down, coming from an understanding point of view without judgment, managing the situation with grace, and prescribing the best course of action with thoughtfulness,” she added.
Reflecting on the incident, Ms Chong said, “What I saw was an [outpouring] of humanity. And observing these people touched my heart greatly. And the various people who helped to shield, bring a chair, and those from the security team and Jem management who intervened when he nearly lost it.”
She added that both the old woman and her son are receiving state help, and that both Jem and the police helped contact the relevant agencies to help resolve their issues.
In the comments, several netizens sympathised with the woman’s son, nothing how difficult it can be for caregivers who tend to suffer fatigue and burnout when caring for elderly parents.
Caregiver Support Action Plan – sufficient?
In a study released in 2019 by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), it was recommended that employees should have the right to request flexible work arrangements and be entitled to six days of paid eldercare leave to help support informal caregivers who are looking after elderly relatives.
Head of research and advocacy at AWARE, Shailey Hingorani, said that there is a need for more caregiver support, noting that Singaporeans are expected to face a growing family caregiving burden as the population ages.
“The filial piety demonstrated by family caregivers is truly something to admire, but we should recognise that devotion alone is not sustainable. It needs to be supported by more concrete assistance from the state,” said Ms Hingorani.
In 2019, the Ministry of Health (MOH) launched a Caregiver Support Action Plan to strengthen support for senior caregiving which includes workplace support, financial support, caregiver empowerment and training, and respite services.
However, some have felt that this plan, while it’s a step in the right direction, is still inadequate.
Jose Raymond of the Singapore People’s Party took to Facebook in February 2019 a few days after the plan was launched to suggest ways for the government to provide better support to Singaporeans in taking care of their elders.
The government’s Caregivers Support Action Plan under the MOH is, says Mr Raymond, a “baby step in the right direction” but still insufficient as it does not address the fundamental fears that ordinary people face when tasked with the reality of caring for their elderly parents or siblings.
Mr Raymond said, “Bottom line; Many individuals wish to look after their elderly parents, especially in their final days. But what stops them from doing so is mainly fear.”
He added, “While the Government has encouraged companies to adopt pro-family policies, the harsh ground realities is that it is insufficient in driving the right national culture towards eldercare and ageing.”