Thursday, August 24, 2017

Develop learning app for seniors to benefit from cashless travel: An open proposal to the Singapore Government

With the government’s drive to go cashless on our public transport system by 2020, there will be the need to guide and coach one group of Singaporeans who may not be so tech-savvy: The elderly. 

I am sure many of these seniors will be concerned as to how they are going to adapt to the changes.

One way to get seniors to embrace cashless top-ups for their EZ link cards is for an apps tutorial to be developed in which simple step-by step instructions can guide the user to top-up his/her card when it is due for renewal. 

This apps which has to be user-friendly can be introduced at two levels – At the community clubs and our schools.  For the students who master the use of this apps tutorial, they can in turn impart their knowledge to their parents, grandparents, and even their neighbours.

Grassroots leaders who work the ground closely with closely with Members of Parliament can learn the technique of this apps tutorial and transfer the knowledge gained to the elderly in their respective neighborhoods.

This new initiative has benefits: It not only helps seniors on a fresh learning journey, but it is also a good move to strengthen bonds within families, as well as promote good neighbourliness.

Most of our seniors are out of work so every cent counts. By imposing a convenience fee for the cashless way, seniors will be discouraged from adopting this mode of payment.  That said, I propose we waive this fee for seniors 60 years and above, and even those with special needs.

While the government can initiate cashless schemes, big companies such as banks and telcos must also play their part as corporate citizens to spear-head this new development. They can do this by encouraging their staff to partner volunteers to educate the public on this cashless drive.

With a coordinated effort, these public transport ambassadors can be stationed at MRT stations/bus interchanges at fixed times by year end to start coaching the elderly on how they can go about topping up their EZ link cards the cashless way and meet the vision of being a smart nation, perhaps, well ahead of the given time frame.







Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anger management talks/forums and courses can help reduce rebellious and violent behaviour : Proposal to The Singapore Government

Often when people experience or appear to show anger, it’s because they are also feeling fear or perceive a threat, and they are responding with a 'fight' response to this."

- Dr James Woollard, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist -

I have been reading reports of many people who include motorists, foreigners and our locals who have lack patience and used their pent-up frustrations to hurl vulgarities and physically abuse another person. 


The recent cases of aggression include the Swiss national and former commodities trader Yannick Alexandre Varidel, 28, who was sentenced to four weeks jail after he pleaded guilty punching a taxi driver. Then there was the 57-year-old-man who was arrested after he was alleged to “forcefully grabbed" the arm of the one of National Environment Agency (NEA) officers spotted him smoking in a non-smoking covered walkway in Woodlands


Accidents on our busy roads are becoming an almost daily affair.  Impatient drivers who do not practice proper time management on the roads will turn aggressive and hit out at fellow motorists when they lose patience. I recall one incident where an elderly Catholic priest was assaulted in the night when an impatient young driver took matters into his own hands. The man was convicted.


Rebellious behaviour can also spill over to our school children and our youngsters when there is poor or little parental supervision.


But despite the stresses that comes with a fast-changing world that can cause people to lose their cool due to poor anger management, we can always turn a negative situation into a positive one where a learning journey helps us to improve our lives.

Uncontrolled anger left unchecked can heighten to aggression and violence within the family and in the community.  When people get angry, their heart begins to distance a fair bit.  To cover that distance, they must shout at another person so that they can be ‘heard.’


On the other hand, well-managed anger can motivate impatient and angry people to make positive changes in their lives. 


With Singapore’s population expected to grow in the years ahead to meet the needs of a fast ageing population, for sure we would have to share spaces and services at food centres, at hospitals, polyclinics, on the roads, in supermarkets, – the list goes on.  That said, it is gives us more reason to exercise patience and being accommodating – otherwise we will end up picking quarrels with one another – for anything and everything. 


The key to managing anger is Patience.


Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting, delay, or frustration without becoming agitated or upset. It's the ability to be able to control our emotions or impulses and proceed calmly when faced with difficulties. Needless to say, patience does not come easily for most of us and it's probably harder now to be patient as the pace of life is going at break-neck speed.


To this end, we need to take proactive measures to equip us with proper anger management. Here’s where the learning curve begins.


We need to control anger before anger controls us. Even though anger is a normal and healthy emotion which all us as human experience from time to time, it can be destructive if it is poorly managed.


One way to control our anger is to count 10 seconds when you feel deeply annoyed and frustrated. That will at least help you calm down so that you are in a better position to think clearly. When one is angry all the thoughts become muddled up.


Then breathe in slowly and try to relax when you breathe out. Experts are of the view that “You automatically breathe in more than out when you’re feeling angry, and the trick is to breathe out more than in."


We need to exercise regularly so that our immune system does not weaken.  When our immune system weakens, we can be prone to being inflicted with all kinds of sickness, and that includes depression.  When one falls ill, he/she can become impatient and frustrated and they can take it out on the next person. Our nurses and health care professionals have been victims of verbal and physical abuse.   


Everyone one living here and they must include foreigners and our locals need to have a clear understanding of managing anger. For our foreign workers who include maids and nurses who serve the untiring tasks of taking care of the elderly, it is crucial that they are taught to recognise the anger signs and how to manage it in their charges.


Talks at public forums and dialogue sessions with the professionals can be held at the community centres, at the workplace, in religious centres and in schools and tertiary institutions.  Guest speakers can include ordinary Singaporeans who have overcome adversities in life and have found Patience to be an asset that have carried them through their life journey.


Useful tips on manging anger can also be disseminated through newsletters and brochures.







Friday, August 18, 2017

Caring culture helps prevent suicides in elderly lonely

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Friday 18th August 2017.

Uncertainty and anxiety over health issues with lack of key social support for the elderly lonely can lead to depression and, at a later stage, to suicide, case studies have proven.

Indeed, quality of life can make a big difference in a person wanting to value life or giving up on it as highlighted by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi (Less stressful environment helps prevent suicide risk; Aug 17).

When loneliness tears at the hearts of people who are shunned and left to fend for themselves, do we as a society step forward to help? Or do we turn a blind eye because "it is not my problem"?

Loneliness is not just making us fall sick, but it is killing us - literally. Do we discuss suicide sufficiently or do we sweep this problem under the carpet because it is a taboo subject?

Studies of the elderly lonely show that those who do not have adequate social interaction are twice as likely to die prematurely.

Neighbours can play an important role in helping the elderly lonely feel valued by simple gestures which show they care. Showing that one cares can lift the human spirit.

Let us build a caring, compassionate and gracious society so that looking out for one another becomes part and parcel of our everyday life.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to The Straits Times: Give couple a second chance

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to The Straits Times: Give couple a second chance


My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today,Tuesday 15th August 2017.


I was struck by the emotions Ms Tay Puay Leng displayed when she spoke of the incident which landed her and Mr Chow Chuin Yee with a fine for the use of criminal force and harassment on 76-year-old Mr Ng Ai Hua at a hawker centre (Public backlash ‘making us live like fugitives’; Aug 13).

I sense that Ms Tay is sincere in wanting to apologise to Mr Ng. It was reported that she is a caregiver to her 89-year-old grandmother, who suffers from dementia.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be very stressful.

It has been reported that some people, probably riled up by the incident, have

tried to pick quarrels with the couple or even intimidate them.

Taking matters into our own hands will only cause more ugly behaviour to surface, resulting in the courts and police having to cope with an increased workload.

What kind of message are we sending our youngsters?

Ms Tay and Mr Chow have already been punished by the court.
She was fined $1,200 and he was fined $1,500. There is no need for us to persecute or punish them any further.


Everyone who makes mistakes ought to be given a second chance.

We can become a far better society if we can accept that people make mistakes, offer forgiveness and move on.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


My philosophy in life: Help anyone who is going through struggles & adversities in their life and embrace forgiveness for those who have made a wrong turn, but are willing to turn over a new leaf.  These are values which I have learnt through my Catholic teachings and what my mother and my late wife taught me.
Sometimes, even a comforting word for those who are going through painful periods helps, but how many people make the effort to do so.  My press letter to The ST seeks to help make Singapore a far better society, and we should all work towards that goal


Monday, August 14, 2017

Proposal to The Singapore Government: Public education on Eczema needed to raise awareness of this skin condition

Public education on various health conditions by the media that includes mental illness and physical illnesses has been effective in getting people to better manage their specific conditions.    
However, very little is known about Eczema which affects many people who include children and adults. In the U.S, Eczema affects about 10 percent to 20 percent of infants and about 3 percent of adults and children.  I am sure, Singapore has its fair share of Eczema patients with some diagnosed with the ailment and others unaware that they have it.
Eczema is a term for a group of medical conditions that causes the skin to become inflamed or irritated – the most common type being atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema.  The skin becomes itchy and rashes will appear. These rashes will appear on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet. It may also affect other areas as well.
If we have sensitive skin and are not sure if Eczema has hit us, bathing too often or washing hands frequently will only cause harmful effects to the skin. This is why it is useful to see doctors who specialise in this area or at least see one who is knowledgeable in Eczema.
Generally, people fear what they don’t understand. For instance, some people might mistakenly believe that Eczema is contagious, when in fact it is not.  Hence the need for public education on this health issue.
My recent encounter with this skin disease which was fortunately detected early by a knowledgeable and experience General Practitioner (GP) helped a great deal. She advised me to bathe only once a day, apply Eczema prone skin moisturizer and Eczema prone body wash, take omega 3 fish oil and use cloves when washing dishes or clothing.
The itchiness was so bad that I could not sleep at night and I began to feel depressed.
A bottle of Eczema prone skin moisturizer cost $42 and Eczema prone body wash is priced at around $29.  As these products are rather expensive, perhaps the Ministry of Health could purchase these and offer it at discounted or affordable prices at the polyclinics and hospitals for the benefit and convenience of our patients. Even King Salmon Omega 3 fish oil which has several benefits can be made available here.
Together with medications to treat allergy and itchiness, the GP also prescribed oral steroids which will be tapered down as the conditions improves. She comforted me by saying that in cases such as mine, short-term dosage of oral steroids is needed rather than steroid cream, and will not adversely affect the bones. 
More than 10 years ago, I was taken off a medication that caused rashes, and the good doctor reminded me to be mindful as my immune system is weak and thus the rash condition that I encountered a decade ago will return and on off. 
The good news is that within a week of her medical care, the Eczema has been contained and I have every confidence of a recovery in due course.    
For the record, Eczema is not contagious.  It is always useful to share our life experiences when we have benefitted from such a health issue, so that those who might be prone to having Eczema will be well positioned to handle the situation better.
As such conditions vary with different people, it is best to seek medical advice and treatment from the professionals/experts and they include doctors from the National Skin Centre (NSC). NSC is based at 1 Mandalay Rd, Singapore 30820.
For all intents and purposes, this article is meant to raise awareness of Eczema.  To this end, it would be helpful if the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the media, carry out public education on Eczema for everyone to have a clear understanding on this health issue.
In closing, patients trying to grapple with this skin illness, the vulnerable (who include the elderly lonely), understanding, empathy and structural support on the part of family members, friends, religious groups, grassroots leaders and the community can help the patients cope much better.

Disclaimer: These treatment and medications described in this article have worked well for me. Please consult a qualified doctor or specialist for your own condition/s.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

LOVE CONQUERS ALL : By Raymond Anthony Fernando

In memory of my late wife, Doris Lau, who was called to the Lord in April 2014

Often marriages are put to the test when couples are confronted with financial problems or if a spouse is stricken with chronic illnesses.  All marriage will go through good and bad times.  But if couples stick to one another during those rough times, the relationship will improve steadily as time goes by.

I was a caregiver to my late wife, Doris Lau who was stricken with schizophrenia at the tender age of 17. My wife passed away 3 years ago after she lost the battle to pneumonia.  

Be mindful of the symptoms of schizophrenia

Coping with the symptoms of schizophrenia can be extremely difficult for family members who remember how active a person was before he/she became ill.  This illness is terrifying because it is unpredictable.  After caring for Doris for 40 years, I became more alert to the warning signs of schizophrenia. 


A reason to love, a reason to marry

Many people find it very hard to believe that I married Doris despite her mental illness.  

So why did I marry Doris? 

Unlike the many girls that I dated, Doris was very down-to-earth.  I found her to be sincere and caring.  This was the woman that would change my life –dramatically. 


I told myself that the woman I marry, whoever she is, I will love forever.  I believe that Doris are I were fated to be husband and wife.  She was born on All Saints' Day and I am born on Valentine's Day.  Undoubtedly, Good Friday has special significance to both my wife and I.  By some strange coincidence, 12th April 1974 was the day that I first met my wife.   And it happened to be on Good Friday.

 And though it was an arduous and painful journey for me to manage my wife's dreaded schizophrenia for more than three decades, I often draw my strength and compassion from Jesus.  Can you imagine what will happen to Doris if she had married the wrong man?

My wife had a total of five illnesses, including schizophrenia, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol and incontinence.  Being the sole caregiver to my wife for more 4 decades was no easy feat and I suffered burnout so many times. 


Memories are made of this


But strange as it may seem, I had grown to love Doris more and more as I saw her struggle with so many illnesses.   And it was such a joy for me to see my wife enjoy life to the fullest despite the suffering that she had to go through.

As we celebrated our wedding anniversaries through our 40 years of blissful union, I recollect the scenes when I took my marriage vows in 1972 when we got married.


"Will you Raymond Anthony Fernando take Doris Lau Siew Lang to be your wedded wife, to live together in the estate of matrimony?  Will you love her, honour her, comfort her, and keep her in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, be true to her as long as you both shall live?"


These marriage vows and my Catholic teachings had given me the strength and courage to love and care for my wife despite the arduous journey of being her sole caregiver.  And when you are looking after a loved one with mental illness, you must be prepared to walk alone in the dark because there is still so much discrimination and prejudice against the mentally ill.  That's the bad news. 


But the good news is that through my love, encouragement and support, I had managed to turn Doris into an author of not one, but 8 books.  This is a remarkable achievement for someone suffering from a serious mental disorder.


Through the many talks that I have given, I have always mentioned that people with mental illness just need one person to love them and with medication, they will recover. 

Love conquers all


During the SARS outbreak in 2003, Doris suffered her 10th relapse.  It was another very difficult period in my life.  I had no choice but to admit Doris into the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), but at the back of my mind, I feared that the government in wanting to stop the spread of SARS , would close all doors for hospital visits.  


Two days after Doris was admitted to hospital, the Ministry of Health (MOH) imposed the no-visitors ruling at all public hospitals and I could not visit my wife for one solid month.  Doris was shattered, I was shattered. My heart was torn apart.


Usually I would visit Doris every day and spend as much time as I could with her as emotional support plays a big part in her recovery.  This time around, the picture was totally different.  My wife's biggest fear became a reality.  In her disoriented state, Doris "believed" that I had abandoned her.  Left her for another woman. 


After one month, through several appeals, I managed to see my wife.  When I saw her from a distance, I ran as fast as I could. I tripped and fell. My knees were badly bruised, but I did not feel any pain because when I spotted Doris, all pain -- physical and emotional seemed to go away.  Indeed, love conquers all.


When Doris returned for home leave 4 weeks later, she was still not out of the woods. She had to continue her ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) and she was only 50% recovered.  It was close to our 29th anniversary and I wrote her a poem entitled "Ring on your finger" framed it on an A1   size poster and mounted it on the wall.  The moment she saw it, her eyes lit up and so did her heart. She kept reading the poem, over and over again, until it brought about her total recovery.  She hugged me and told me, that the delusion that I had abandoned her was not true and I really loved her.  Once again, the healing power of love reunited us.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Ring on your finger

A poetic tribute to my lovely wife, the late Doris Lau Siew Lang


My Dearest Doris,

It was placed on your finger many years ago

That wedding ring now in our home, still glows

Though you are safe with God, my love for you, Doris, continues to flow

This, I am sure, my love, you already know


The colour gold of the ring reminds me of how pretty you are

Your inner beauty that is sparkling like an evening star

The shape of the ring

Reminds me of one thing

You have carved our destiny

Through happy times, and amid uncertainty


The ring bears my name

It remains the same

The words have not faded

And our love has been upgraded

It reminds me that I will always belong to, Doris

It is a documented promise


The ring stood out on your finger that was so tender

It reminded me of how fragile you are

This ring on your finger reminded me that we have come this far

You will always have a place deep in my heart Doris, my eternal partner

And even if I have to start life all over again,

I will still choose you, Doris

And no other




Raymond Anthony Fernando

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