'I don’t want to die alone': Senior citizen, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

'I don’t want to die alone': Senior citizen

As the Singapore population ages, the demand for suitable care solutions for seniors has become more pressing. They want to hold on to their independence but will require some form of caregiving. Here’s one senior citizen, who spoke in Hokkien, describing how she wants to live out her golden years.

Madam Liew Thye Moi, 103

I have five children – three sons and two daughters. One son died in 2020. My husband, who died in 1981, was a civil servant.

When my children were young, we lived in an attap house in Jalan Afifi in Paya Lebar.

When I was younger, I worked as a confinement nanny for the female employees of Ban Hin Lee Bank (which went on to merge with other banks to form CIMB). I was also a babysitter. 

In my 50s, I moved out of the attap house to a four-room flat in Sims Drive. That house is under my son’s name.

In 1988, when I was 67 years old, I rented a two-bedroom flat in Circuit Road. By then, my children were married and had their own homes.

I lived there until 2019 when I was 99 years old and moved into a nursing home in Tampines because I felt I needed help in my daily activities. It was getting more difficult to do things like using the toilet and cooking my own meals. I thought it would be good if there were professionals to look after me, as I would not have to disturb my children.

I stayed with eight other seniors in one room. A few of the residents ganged up on me and made my days there unpleasant. When I told the nurse, she told me to ignore them. I felt that the staff dismissed my concerns. 

The staff were not attentive to me. There were a few times when I told them I needed to use the toilet, but they took too long to help me and I soiled myself. 

After staying there for around one year, I moved out and lived with my eldest daughter Jessie for a few months. However, because I use a wheelchair, it was hard for me to use the toilet at her house. 

So I decided to move back to the rental flat in Circuit Road in 2021. It is more wheelchair-friendly, and I can use the toilet on my own. From cleaning the house to cooking, showering and getting dressed, I do everything myself. 

In February, I had a fall and have since become much more frail. I need a lot more help for everything, so Jessie, who is 76, comes over whenever she can. She sleeps here at night.

I know that she cannot always be here for me because she also has to look after her husband whose right hand was paralysed after he had a stroke 20 years ago. Jessie’s savings is being used to support herself, her husband and me, and I am worried about it running out.

When she needs to leave me alone at home sometimes, she pays another person to watch over me and make sure that I am all right alone.

I want to get a domestic helper. I am a fall risk and my doctor said I cannot fall again. But I need financial help to afford that.

For now, I am most worried about being alone at home, falling down and having no one to help me.

A few months ago, Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities helped to install some motion sensors in my house. There is one each in my living room, bedroom, kitchen and toilet. If the sensors detect a fall, the social workers at the charity will be informed. That puts me a bit more at ease.

My fear is dying alone at home and having no one know about my passing. 

Despite all the challenges, I still prefer living at home. I am a very independent person. And I can be stubborn.

I change my own diapers. I do not even like it when my daughter pushes me to the toilet on the wheelchair. I prefer to walk slowly by myself, and do not want to give up my freedom and independence.

ELDERCAREageingsenior citizens