The proposal was to work with Dr. Patrick Khoo of HK Cares, a foundation in Hong Kong, China, where I would be on duty for 5 hours a day for a week. The service I aimed to provide was to visit hospitals in order to care for the elderly population in these facilities. By entertaining them, looking after them, reading to them, and helping them with whatever they needed, my goal was to relieve the disease burden on society and provide the elderly population in hospitals with a greater quality care experience through extra attention on my part.
Summary of What Took Place
First, I wrote a letter explaining the needs of the elderly population and why it was important for members of the community to devote some time to helping them with their needs. I cited a study by Landeiro, Barrows, Musson, Gray and Leal (2017) which focused on the value of reducing loneliness and isolation among the elderly population by visiting them, reading to them, and talking to them. I showed in the letter that this population is often neglected and that by helping them in their needs, one can support the overall community in a positive manner that promotes mindfulness, caring, kindness and other favorable virtues that can help communities develop in a beneficial manner.
Second, I held a convention with my community partner, to advocate for greater community-based care. Involved in the convention were 2 lawmakers, 3 health care professionals, my community partner who is a doctor with HK Cares, and 4 community leaders, all of whom gave talks to the public admitted for free to learn about the ways that they could help the elderly population. The convention was advertised in local community papers and via social media.
Third, I engaged in the project of visiting the elderly population. Every day for one week, I devoted 5 hours per day to visiting the elderly population in hospitals through HK Cares. Specifically, I visited older persons who were suffering from cognitive and physical impairments, as well as functional, behavioral and psychological problems. Between the hours of 4 pm and 9 pm, I was available for their needs.
The specific actions that took place on my part consisted of saying hello to the patients and introducing myself as a volunteer who was interested in visiting with them and spending some time with them. The first thing I would do was explain all the ways I could help if they would like me to visit. I explained that I could get them anything they needed, such as water, a blanket, help with getting out of bed or sitting up, help with finding the nurse on duty. I could read to them from the newspaper or magazines that were available. I could talk with them about their stay or about their life if they would like to tell me about themselves. I could make sure that they had everything they needed to enhance their comfort level and that if they needed anything that they should just ask me.
In total, I visited with 15 different patients over the course of the week. On the first day, I spent one hour apiece with 5 different elderly patients.
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On the second day, I spent one hour with 5 more patients. And on the third day, I spent one hour with 5 additional patients. Then I repeated the process, re-visiting each of the 15 patients again over the course of the remainder of the week.
For all 15 of the patients, I spent approximately 20 minutes reading to them from material that they wanted to hear read out loud. This ranged from information about their illness that was supplied to them by their care takers at the facility to meditations from religious books that the patients themselves possessed. In some cases, I read from popular magazines and newspapers that were available or that I brought along with me. The patients always enjoyed being read to and thanked me for coming when I was finished reading. For the remainder of the time, I would attend to the patients’ needs by making sure they were comfortable, that they had enough to drink, and that they could get up and move around if so desired. We would also talk: I would first start by talking about myself, where I come from, how old I am, what I was doing there, why I was doing it, and what I wanted to do with my life. Then I would ask the patients questions about their lives to get them to begin talking. In most cases, I learned quite a lot about the patients and saw that they enjoyed sharing this information with me. By the end of the week, I had heard many stories and allowed the patients to experience pleasure by having the opportunity to talk about their lives to someone who wanted to listen. This was a very nice and helpful experience for the elderly patients, as they had a lot of life to look back on and were happy to have an opportunity to look back on it all and talk a little bit about it.
My community partner worked with me on these projects and would sometimes visit different patients while I was visiting others, or we would make a visit at the same time to a single patient. The community partner was helpful at times when the patient would request an item or the nurse; I could stay with the patient while my partner went to retrieve the requested item or nurse.
I promoted the project by writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper and by holding a public convention to raises awareness about the need for community volunteers to help ease the disease burden of the community by visiting the elderly population and making their quality care experiences more satisfactory.
I documented the project by making notes after visiting each patient of who I visited, the time in which I visited them, the services I provided during that visit (i.e., whether I read, what I read, what we discussed, whether I helped them with anything—like sitting up, walking around, using the rest room, getting water or a nurse or extra medication, etc.). By documenting the project in this way I was able to recall what I had done for the patient in my previous visit and I could bring up these items in the next visit by asking the patient to.....
Landeiro, F., Barrows, P., Musson, E. N., Gray, A. M., & Leal, J. (2017). Reducing social isolation and loneliness in older people: a systematic review protocol. BMJ Open, 7(5), e013778.
Liu, S. J., Lin, C. J., Chen, Y. M., & Huang, X. Y. (2007). The effects of reminiscence group therapy on self-esteem, depression, loneliness and life satisfaction of elderly people living alone. Mid-Taiwan Journal of Medicine, 12(3), 133-142.
MacIntyre, I., Corradetti, P., Roberts, J., Browne, G., Watt, S., & Lane, A. (1999). Pilot study of a visitor volunteer programme for community elderly people receiving home health care. Health & Social Care in the Community, 7(3), 225-232.