Caring for Heng Cheok
Heng Cheok, 46, has Intellectual Disability, and has been with COH for 24 years. He lives with his parents, Mr Poon Yew, 75, and Mdm Chan Kum Fong, 84, in an HDB elderly studio apartment.
Heng Cheok’s younger sister, Mun Kam has Intellectual Disability too. She attended COH with him until three years ago when she became increasingly dependent and was admitted to the Home at MINDSville@Napiri.
Despite struggling with their own health problems, Mr Poon and Mdm Chan hope to take care of Heng Cheok at home for as long as possible.
“Every morning, I prepare breakfast while my wife bathes him. After eating, he takes the van provided by COH to Emmanuel Activity Centre (EAC) in Tampines.”
“My wife and I get some time to run errands and go for our medical appointments when Heng Cheok is there.”
“We are back by the time he returns.”
“We’re very thankful…”
Mr Poon deeply appreciates how COH has journeyed with his family from the 1990s, and especially so in the last few years.
“I started working as a fitter in the shipyards when I was 14. I worked hard to provide for the family while my wife took care of the children. I worked in various shipping and manufacturing companies. I even returned to work after retiring. But, I had to finally stop work at 69 in 2010 because of health issues.”
That was when he approached COH for help to reduce Heng Cheok and Mun Kam’s fees at the EAC. This fee subsidy relieved the family’s burden, as they were living on his savings, annuity, and what his eldest daughter, presently living overseas with her family, sent over.
The family now has added financial support from their Community Development Council, Mdm Chan’s church, and COH. Living simply, they have enough for what they need. They mostly take the bus or MRT, and cook their meals whenever they are at home.
“I have lived a long life…”
Diagnosed with Leukemia in 2010, Mr Poon responded well to treatment and is now in remission. His heart condition, however, weighs more heavily on his mind. Doctors say he is stable and does not need an operation for now, but must be monitored closely.
“I have lived a long life. I am not worried about dying. But anything can happen anytime. That’s why I must plan ahead for my wife and children.”
Mdm Chan has severe osteoporosis and early stage dementia, nonetheless she plods on as a caregiver.
Two days a week, they visit Mun Kam. “It was hard for us to arrange for her to live in a Home, but we had no choice. My wife needed a cataract operation and Mun Kam was becoming more dependent.”
On some weekends, they bring Mun Kam, who is wheelchair-bound, back on Home Leave.
“It’s not just the financial assistance…”
“COH has helped us tremendously. We are very thankful. I say it from the bottom of my heart,” says Mr Poon. He goes on to name Social Workers he has met through the years, “Ms Helen Yong, Ms Giselle Cheok…”
“It’s not just the financial assistance…For example, they showed us Homes that could admit our children to for short-term respite care.”
“To me, Ms Helen is a Number 1 Social Worker!”
She is no longer working at COH, but Mr Poon knows that he can approach the current Social Worker, Ms Victoria Lim, for help when there is a need.
“One step at a time…”
In the meantime, Mr Poon and Mdm Chan appreciate every day that they can welcome Heng Cheok back from the EAC. “We’ll just take one step at a time, one day at a time, caring for him as long as we are alive and can manage. We are reluctant to send him anywhere. At home. we get to enjoy at least some family warmth together.”
Despite being buffeted by many trials, Mr Poon and Mdm Chan do whatever they can to provide a safe haven for Heng Cheok and his younger sister.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:3
Also read: Meet Heng Cheok
About the Author: The COH Resource Team comprises volunteers, content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals.