Monday, November 26, 2018

Making a difference



In our on-going efforts help build a better society, none f us can solve all the world’s problems, nor the problems in Singapore or the region. How is our one small action actually going to change anything. But what is important is that if we just focus on helping to solve one person’s problem, to make even a small difference in one person’s life, to that one person it could mean the world.

So, let’s start with making one-person smile, laugh, or feel loved and treat them with kindness and respect, that we would have made a difference.

In closing, for those who have not seen my videos, here are just two that helps to educate and inform on the daunting task of caregiving.

 

ODE TO DORIS: CONQUERER OF SCHIZOPHRENIA


 

Mental health: Are we in denial?


 

Have a nice day, folks!

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Let’s treat the elderly lonely and the needy with dignity, wrong to abandon them: An open proposal to Mr Heng Swee Keat, Prime Minister-Elect


24th November 2018

 

Mr Heng Swee Keat

Prime Minister-Elect and Finance Minister

& The Cabinet

 

Let’s treat the elderly lonely and the needy with dignity, wrong to abandon them: An open proposal to Mr Heng Swee Keat, Prime Minister-Elect  

 

Dear Mr Heng,

 

Introduction

 

To be perfectly honest with you, I am somewhat sceptical to present you with my feedback, but nonetheless, I will take a chance and present the hard truths to you and the cabinet as I sense that you are a sincere and kind person who has a genuine desire to help caregivers, the mentally ill and the elderly lonely.

 

I hope I am not wrong in my assumption.  My feedback is a no-holds bar write-up that is bound to ruffle some feathers. But I will pen my thoughts and earnest feelings just the same.

 

Minister of State (Health & Law) Edwin Tong recently asked how caregivers and the elderly can be better supported.  By now most, if not all Singaporeans including politicians, church leaders and yourself, Mr Heng, know of my plight.

 

To jog your memory, I have been a caregiver 4 times over, having taking care of my late wife who battled schizophrenia for 44 long years, my only late sister and my late mother, in addition to now taking care of my twin brother Roy who has severe mobility problems and is wheelchair-bound in the ECON Nursing Home at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

 

I pen this feedback to you with tears in my eyes and I recall how within a space of 4.5 years I lost 3 immediate relatives who were so dear to me – my wife, Doris Lau, my only sister, Veronica and my mother Mrs Pearl Fernando.

 

Grief is never easy to cope with, for it will come and go, come and go.

 

Despite the enormous pain I have to grapple with, I am not getting any support whatsoever. That’s makes my journey as widower even more painful.

 

As the yuletide season kicks in, it pains me to see couples shopping and merry-making as I spend ‘Silent Nights’ all alone.

 

For sure, most of us will experience loneliness at some point or another. Many may experience it many times in their lives, and many may experience different types of loneliness. Loneliness is usually attributed to the elderly but it also affects young people from the 16 – 24 age group.

 

Married couples can also experience loneliness when there are problems between the couple, be it infidelity, financial problems or abuse -physically and mentally

 

Loneliness has been linked to a number of illnesses and negative conditions. Professionals recommend that we should take it seriously when someone reveals they are lonely because it usually means they are having difficulty in other areas of their lives. Feeling lonely can be a mental health issue by itself.

 

Lack of recreation for the elderly lonely

 

During the period when my wife was alive, the church would provide us with $100 cash to buy groceries every month, and take us for outings 4 times a year. All adoptees were taken care off during the outings which included some fine dining by the volunteers from St Vincent De Paul (SVDP).

 

Now that my wife has died, for close to 5 years, I am deprived of such recreation, and even when I made 2 appeals to my church, it was flatly turned down.

 

Pope Francis has often said that the Catholic Church has a responsibility to take care of the mentally ill and their caregivers, but this directive is not being followed and people like myself are left feeling unloved and uncared for. In one word – abandoned.

 

Contributing to the literary culture; mindset for improvements

 

Whenever I come across anyone – young or old who is struggling with depression or life-threatening issues, I will step forward to give a helping hand, either to counsel them or if they have a writing flair and are keen to ‘learn how to fish’, I would be more than willing to help them carve a writing career.

 

I have done this to some ex-colleagues of mine and to a 21-year-old student from the Philippines who writes beautiful poetry.  The book which we are co-authoring is entitled “I’m so afraid to be alone”.

 

When we have a skill, share it. That is my motto in life.

 

A former schoolmate of mine purchased copies of my novel, Loving A Schizophrenic for me to send to the Mayor of Calapan City, Aran C P.

 

Why did I do it? In 2015, I read a report that every day 7 Filipinos commit suicide. My novel will inspire and motivate people to better understand depression and schizophrenia and for caregivers to embrace caregiving a as a noble job.

 

Even when it comes to ideas and suggestions that can make Singapore a far better place to live in, I contribute actively, having been motivated by my former General Manager, Mr Mosses Lee and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who invited me to sit on the Feedback Unit Sub-Committees.

 

During my career in broadcasting, I contribute hundreds of suggestions that made vast improvements in the broadcasting station where I gave 31 loyal dedicated service. I left in 2001 to offer full-time care to my beloved wife whose schizophrenia was damaging to her health.  On all accounts, it was no easy feat for me as her sole caregiver to balance work and family life simultaneously.

 

Translate contributions to rewards, don’t deprive me of my frozen pension and bonuses

 

Despite my dedication and commitment to the industry, my frozen pension and $4,000 bonus was not given to me. Former NMP Ms Cham from the NTUC Union put up a strong case for me, but the Media Development Authority (MDA) rejected the appeal without showing any compassion whatsoever.  The answer given to Ms Cham was that if the MDA returned my bonus, and gave me my frozen pension, they would have to ‘answer to the Public Services Commission’.  I can never understand how such Human Resource practices are allowed.   To this end, Mr Heng, I appeal to you to look into this matter and take to task those who have done this to me.

 

MPs must show care and concern to the needy

 

When my house almost caught fire a couple of months ago, I photographed the burnt cooker and emailed my MP Dr Koh Poh Koon, PM Lee and a few cabinet ministers. No one bothered to visit me nor show any concern whatsoever.  Yet when it comes to the General Elections, the MP comes along with his entourage and wants me to give him my support.

 

My twin brother, Roy who was a bankrupt and who has a wife and son who are mentally ill was humiliated by his MP Zainal Sapari  when he requested for some NTUC FairPrice vouchers in the presence of other residents at the Meet-The People’s session, Sapari waved the vouchers in his hand and taunted Roy, saying  “If I don’t want to give you these vouchers, what are you going to do?

 

Are these the kind of MPs Singapore needs?

 

Better politicians who feel for the needy

 

Education Minster Ong Yue Kung is MY KIND of minister. When he heard about my late wife, he offered kind words and showed deep concern.  

 

Likewise, Senior MOS Heng Chee How and MP Ms Tin Pei Ling have shown much care and comfort to me.

 

But the politician that I have the most respect for, has to be SDP Chairman Dr Paul Tambyah. He understands I am a widower living all alone and have to go for cataract operations, so out of the kindness of his heart, he buys my books and I can set aside the money to meet the hefty cost of my eye operations that is coming on-stream, Dr Paul advised me on more than one occasion to give GP tuition to students as I write very well and with compassion. I was so uplifted!

 

Conclusion

 

I am a strong believer in Jesus Christ, just like my family and my late wife. The Lord has been my strength through the many storms I have ridden, and will continue to ride.

 

I am fiercely independent.

 

We are living in a precarious world. An imperfect world with imperfect people, brought down from original sin from Adam and Eve. To this end, let us not become entrapped by sin, unkind deeds and injustices that divides society. Rather like, the Saints, let’s build a kind nation that gives unconditional love to everyone.

 

I look forward to a reply from you, Mr Heng.

 

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Level of service from Singapore Post getting from bad to worst




 

The delivery of normal local mail takes between 1 to 2 working days. That is on paper. but the reality is that the mail is now being delivered as late as 4 days or more.  This places residents in much anxiety if the mail is very important.

 

My brother posted me an important mail to me on Monday 10th September morning and rightfully, I should have got it by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. Today is Thursday 13th September and I have yet to get that mail.

 

Added to that, the postman has on two occasions placed my letters in the wrong letter boxes in my block.

 

To add insult to injury when I called SingPost at 3pm to provide feedback on my long overdue mail, as I could not get the PR Executive at the time, I was pushed from pillar to post. The manager refused to take my urgent call and the customer service officer told me he was, Busy” and could only return my call before 6pm.  This is horrendous service!

 

Finally, after several attempts I managed to speak to the Head of PR, one Robin Goh.  He was helpful and assured me that he will get the supervisor of mail, one Filipino by the name of Isabelo to urgently look into this matter.

 

Isabelo just phoned me and told me they will investigate the matter and revert to me, but cautioned that as the mail was not registered, it would be difficult for SingPost to track it.

 

So much for quality service and the move towards a smart nation in Singapore!

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Opinion piece: Strengthen filial piety and family bonding for caregivers through more support measures and subsidies : An open proposal to the Singapore Government


 
As a caregiver to several immediate relatives, past and present, I fully appreciate and support the suggestion to allow the use of Medisave to pay for nursing home charges (Allow use of Medisave to pay nursing home charges; Sept 10, 2018, The Straits Times).

Many Singaporeans who have and will become caregivers suffer burnout as it is very draining to look after a loved one with chronic conditions, be it physical or mental.  Some will lose key social support, become isolated and lose a monthly income when they have to take on the unenviable task of caregiving.

Many caregivers will not feel comfortable to place their sick loved ones in a nursing homes as they will become guilt-ridden, feeling that they are abandoning them. So, they opt to hire a helper, but that will place the family caregivers in much anxiety as they would find it difficult to pay for the helper’s salary. 

Faced with this dilemma, some may fall into depression and then there is just too much problems for everyone in the household to manage and cope with. We should prevent this from happening– more so when Singapore facing a rapid ageing population.

To this end, I propose that the authorities consider opening a Medisave account to allow such caregivers to pay the helper’s salary through this special scheme so long as there are sufficient funds to meet the caregiver’s current and future medical needs.

Yet another way to support caregivers is to provide more and better subsidies for both residents in nursing homes and for hiring of helpers.

Such support measures will help to a large extent to strengthen filial piety and family bonding. Moreover, government needs to rally around our ageing population and those with special needs

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

Monday, September 10, 2018


Outstanding services, care & compassion from Mount Calvary Bereavement Services, St Theresa’s Nursing Home and St Stephen’s Church

 

Reference the above matter.

 

Ii was not easy for my siblings and I – together with the children my late mother looked after (Michelle Koh& Stephanie Choo) trying to cope with the loss of my wife Doris, my sister, Veronica and now my mother, Mrs. Pearl Fernando within a space of 4 years. 

 

Grief is never easy to cope with, it will come and go.

 

Mount Calvary Bereavement Services

 

When a loved one passes on. there are so many things to organise. But through the wonderful support and meticulous planning of Jeffrey Herman Vierra and his team at Mount Calvary Bereavement Services, my siblings and I were able to have a good night’s sleep knowing that my late mom was in good hands.

 

Mount Calvary, not only provided top-notch professional services, but every single staff member displayed compassion and much respect for all our relatives and friends who turned up at the wake.

 

This is the third time that I have secured the services of Mount Calvary, confident that they would always do an excellent job. Certainly, I would recommend them to anyone who needs funeral services.

 

St Theresa’s Home

 

St Theresa’s Home also gave wonderful support to my mother during her 4 years or so stay at this home. Her administrator Victor Seng has so much love for the residents and even though my mom had to struggle with several chronic conditions that include Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia which was a big challenge to the healthcare workers there, not once did they grumble or show disrespect and impatience with my mother.

 

All these kindness and compassion by the nursing team are probably inherited by Victor Seng who has always guided the nurses to show love, understanding and unflagging support to all the residents there.

 

The nurses adored my mother so it was no surprise that they took the trouble to pay their last respects to my mother at the wake on Thursday 6th September.  I was deeply touched.

 

With a rapid ageing population coming on-stream, Singapore could well do with the compassion of these kind of nurses.  They come from poor countries like the Philippines, Myanmar and India, but they are so rich in their hearts.

 

So, Victor, Seng, my family and I wish to record our deepest gratitude to you and your team. On several occasion, Victor you went the extra mile to render that ‘WOW’ service! 

 

St Stephens Church

 

In closing, it’s only fitting that we record our fondest gratitude to Rev Father Gerard Weerakoon, Parish Priest of St Stephen for conducting the funeral masses at the church and at Mandai crematorium with so much of God’s love. We were all uplifted by the manner in which Fr Gerard gave spiritual guidance, advice and professionalism during the 3 days that we were in prayer at his church.

 

I also would like to record my deepest appreciation to Faith, Fr Gerard’s secretary who rendered support, guidance and care to ensure that everything went smoothly.

 

God bless each and every one of you.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

& the Fernando Family

 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Installation of night light in homes and sensor lights in organisations in support of the elderly : An open proposal to Lawrence Wong, MND Minister & Masagos, NEA Minister



Certain health issues can increase the risk of falling and these include leg weakness, mobility problems, and balance issues. These are very common problems which many of our seniors face as age catches up on them.

With the steep increase in water and electricity bills, homes and organisations now need to cut down on water and electricity consumptions. 

While the HDB has taken positive steps to improve the safety features in housing estates to prevent the elderly from injury by installing hand bar grips and non-slip tiles in toilets, there is also a dire need to ensure that seniors do not grope in the dark while visiting the toilet at night.

 In other places when lights are not turned on at night or the early hours of the morning, such as in churches, there is a high risk of seniors with mobility problems falling down. We must take concreate measures to prevent this from happening.

In ‘light’ of this, I propose that a night light be installed at bedrooms so that the moment seniors wake up at night to go to the toilet or kitchen, he/she will not fall as visibility is clear.  A night light  switched on does not consume much electricity even if the light is on most part of the night.

In malls or places where there are 24-hour services, such as hotels or eating houses, installing such sensors saves the owners a bundle on electricity bills

In other places such as in columbariums at churches, a sensor light should be installed so that relatives who go there to pray will not fall down as they grope in the dark.

I fell down twice in my church around 6.15am while praying to my late wife and sister at the columbarium. Here the lights are only turned on at 6.30am.

The light comes on the moment someone enters and this way, electricity bills will not rise.  Praying is crucial for all who practice a faith, but more so for those who have lost their loves ones and trying to cope with grief.  No one should have to pray in the dark.


Automated lighting that turns on only when someone enters the room is definitely cost saving.

 
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Opinion piece: It’s a crying shame that our lonely seniors are resorting to suicide



An open proposal to the Singapore Government

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
-Christopher Reeve -

It is most disturbing to read the report of many of our senior citizens who are ending their lives through suicide due to lack of support (“Number of suicides among senior hits record high”, The Straits Times, Monday, July 30, 2018).

 

Besides forming a task force to tackle depression and suicides which I proposed on my blog and in the media much earlier, every citizen must take it upon themselves to feel for the elderly lonely. After all, our elderly seniors were the ones who contributed to the economic growth of Singapore during their younger days. Many people, myself included, find it hard to believe that Singapore is a first world country that has third world practices.

 

To abandon the elderly lonely who include those who have lost their loved ones is just not right and is not in keeping with the government’s on-going effort to building a gracious, caring and inclusive society.

 

Give love, until it hurts: Let’s take lessons from Mother Teresa

 

I have always admired Mother Teresa for the love and care she had given to the less fortunate in society and I am deeply influenced by her. To better understand the true meaning of providing support and love to our lonely seniors, let us take lessons from the late Mother Teresa.

 

In one episode of her charity work, Mother Teresa went to visit a Hindu mother of 8 children, all of whom who had gone without food for several days. She brought them a small bag of rice. As soon as the mother of 8 children received the rice, she took half the packet of rice and ran out of the house. Mother Teresa was puzzled. When the lady return home, Mother Teresa asked her where she had gone to with half the packet of rice.

 

The lady smiled and replied that she gave the rice to a Muslim family, her neighbor, who like her, had gone without food for days.  Clearly, this Hindu lady knows how to give love – until it hurts.

 

Recently, I came across some painful postings by a young pretty Filipino girl on Facebook, a friend of mine, just 21 years old, but often depressed. She ended up living in a park as her home has been taken away as she could not pay the 2 months’ rent. I comforted her and advised her to value life and to go to church and pray every day – for prayer works wonders.  Then I sent her some groceries from the few books I sold. She was so uplifted, knowing that someone in Singapore cares for her well-being.

 

It is extremely painful to go without food for days, feel abandoned and to come to the reality of being all alone and uncared for in this world. I then searched the Facebook to find her Mayor in Albay, Philippines, and advised her to write to him for assistance. I continue to keep in touch with her, giving guidance and showing care for her.

 

Never underestimate the undying, unconditional love from God

 

I lit a blessed candle for her that night and asked Jesus to help her. The next day, a friend she met at the park brought her to her home to stay, and now at least she will have a roof over her head and probably a decent meal.

  

Staying ‘alive’ to the realities of suicidal depression and other mental disorders

 


 

I had proposed a detailed report on how we can tackle suicides and depression, giving practical and workable solutions, but it appears – real or imagined, that my proposal has fallen on deaf ears. What a sad state of affairs!

 

A monthly allowance to help our seniors cope with living expenses

 

Many of our seniors who are drawn to suicide don’t have money for their daily expenses. Where feasible, I urge the government to provide a monthly allowance of anything between $200 to $300 to our seniors who live all alone.

 

Recreation is also so important for the lonely elderly to find comfort, Surely, some outings by church groups or government agencies can be organized to provide some measure of support.   When my wife was alive, we were fortunate to benefit from such outings that were organized by the Saint Vincent De Paul Society of my church. But now that Doris has died, everything has died with her and I am left all alone to fend for myself.
 

Stay connected through WIFI

 

Often social media can be a useful platform for the lonely elderly to keep in touch with friends and even find new ones. Given the push by the Singapore Government to build a smart nation, shouldn’t WIFI be installed in HDB estates, especially for those who live in flats all alone?

 

Don’t play God by legalising euthanasia, but value life, promote love, support and understanding

 

The media, because of its huge outreach must promote love, understanding and support, bringing people from all races, ages and religions together as one big family. It should in no way cause divisions in society and give undue attention to those who have absolutely no value for life. Only cowards will want to support euthanasia to get rid of seniors who lose the will to live.

 

I was deeply troubled that a regular forum writer wrote about giving euthanasia options to lonely seniors who struggle with sickness and find it difficult to secure support. Who is he to play God? Being a born Catholic, I am deeply offended by his letter which has been published. If suicide is a crime, then why is euthanasia being suggested?  Let us not be a party to abetting a crime.

 

No religion, to the best of my knowledge will support killing oneself.

 

During my 31-year-old career in broadcasting, our journalists were so well trained and such letters or any others causing division or gossip in society would never be published.

 

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew would come down hard on news editors who paint Singapore or her citizens in bad light.

 

So, let’s put a grinding halt to gutter journalism – period.  Minister Iswaran, the ball is in your court.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO