Editor’s brief: Singapore social service agency ABLE (Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations Limited), has been providing rehabilitation and respite services for the physically-challenged, as well as care services for their caregivers. However, with Singapore going through a lockdown (so-called “circuit breaker”), in tandem with many other nations worldwide, the physically challenged and their caregivers served by ABLE had their on-site services yanked. The restriction was recently lifted for such services, but ABLE was able to innovate to provide tele-services for some rehabilitation and respite services. When hard times such as a pandemic strikes, technology becomes an enabler for caring hearts. Read more below.
SINGAPORE – Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations Limited (ABLE), a social service agency, braved through the major challenges of the “circuit breaker” and social distancing regulations imposed in Singapore, and found new ways with technologies to continue to provide some rehabilitation and respite for their physically-challenged beneficiaries and their caregivers.
ABLE provides much needed multi-dimensional rehabilitation and respite services for beneficiaries with movement and physical challenges, including some who survived acute medical conditions such as stroke. At the same time, ABLE also provides support and care services for caregivers of beneficiaries with disabilities, who may need a secure, comfortable and available space within ABLE’s confines, to get some work done, or simply to relax and rest.
“We at ABLE have served physically-challenged beneficiaries and their caregivers through various rehabilitation, respite and care services. With the initial ‘circuit breaker’ which prevented us from serving all of them in-house, we had to quickly innovate through tele- and videoconferencing to reach out to them, offering some degree of rehabilitation therapy, music and art therapy, as well as care and support for their caregivers,” says Gene Lee, Executive Director, ABLE.
During the initial “circuit breaker”, rehabilitation was classified as a non-essential service. ABLE had to quickly find a way to continue to provide therapy for its beneficiaries. ABLE quickly evaluated various videoconferencing platforms and settled on Microsoft Teams. Through videoconferencing, ABLE’s therapists learned to provide virtual rehabilitation for its beneficiaries. This is the first time for ABLE to provide virtual physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and employment support. ABLE’s therapists had to improvise at times to have their beneficiaries find available objects within their homes for the rehabilitation sessions.
In order to ensure minimise disruption to clients’ rehabilitation journey, ABLE’s Rehabilitation and Training team commenced Tele-Rehab immediately when the Circuit Breaker started on 7 April. The team conducted more than 100 tele-rehabilitation sessions between 8 April to 30 April.
There are limitations in conducting rehabilitation through video consultations, especially for some beneficiaries suffering from certain medical conditions, which demands face-to-face rehabilitation services. Fortunately, in the later phase of the “circuit breaker”, the Ministry of Health re-categorized rehabilitation and therapy as essential services, albeit with safe distancing at the ABLE premises.
Tele-Kopi for Caregivers
Caregivers are sometimes sidelined in a rehabilitation programme, while they are critical to maintaining loving and dedicated care for their loved ones who are facing debilitating situations. ABLE recognizes the severe impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on both physically-challenged persons and their caregivers. Caregivers who look after the needs of their care recipients may experience increased feelings of loneliness and social isolation during this time.
ABLE launched a “Tele-Kopi” programme as a support group to help caregivers stay connected during the “circuit breaker”. This programme serves as a structured support group that provides caregivers with the opportunity to share their challenges with each other. It is open to caregivers of persons with disabilities.
“Caregivers like myself appreciate the support given by ABLE, as through our participation in the ‘Tele-Kopi’ sessions, we get to connect with other caregivers and share our experiences in looking after our care recipients. Hearing the real-life stories shared by other caregivers gives us a sense of comfort and strength,” says Mrs Jane Koe, Caregiver.
Providing respite care to ease
Mental wellness is often overlooked. However, everyone experiences anxiety, stress and duress during uncertain and challenging times, including physically-challenged persons and their caregivers.
Music and art therapy have been shown to provide a sense of normalcy for people who may otherwise not have opportunities for social interaction. ABLE has been conducting music and art therapy sessions online to help beneficiaries express themselves and deal with difficult emotions. ABLE has also been facilitating virtual volunteer-led befriending sessions to help beneficiaries stay connected in the community.
ABLE’s Respite team packed and delivered individual care packages to its beneficiaries. These care packages include musical instruments and art materials for beneficiaries to harness music and art as therapy during these stressful times.
Continuing to provide essential wheelchair-accessible transport
ABLE helps to ease the mobility challenges faced by persons with disabilities by providing wheelchair accessible transport to shuttle clients from their homes to ABLE at reasonable rates.
ABLE’s transport services are also available for private hire for outings, medical appointments and workplace requirements.
During the Circuit Breaker period, ABLE has continued to help clients with disabilities commute to their dialysis appointments.
Increased need for fundraising
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, ABLE has continued to serve its beneficiaries and their caregivers through tele-respite and tele-rehab programs.
Since February 2020, ABLE’s service income and donations received have reduced due to the COVID-19 outbreak and “circuit breaker”. With the annual charity dinner postponed due to the ‘circuit breaker’, ABLE has launched a fundraising campaign on Giving.sg to raise S$50,000 to be able to continue serving physically-challenged persons and their caregivers. ABLE will give 10% of the contributions to help those impacted by COVID-19 through the Courage Fund. The link to the campaign is tinyurl.com/ABLEGive10.
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