In face of unexpected illnesses, the mental and physical pain suffered by the patient is immeasurable. To recover from the storm, patients need not only unconditional love and support from family, but also warm solicitude and care from their surroundings.

Hong Kong Red Cross“Patient Concern Service” set up in 1973 is the real answer to the spiritual needs of patients and their family members. Across the 22 public hospitals under supervision of Hospital Authority, Patient Concern Service has played a supportive role in the psychosocial recovery of inpatients, for example, providing inpatients with regular visits, companion and escort services, recreational activities, mobility equipment loan service and free magazine distribution. More importantly, through the organization of interest classes, festival celebrations, ward visits and rehabilitative activities, the programme aims to cure their loneliness during their hospital stay and to help inpatients receive the love and support they may need to survive the road of recovery.

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Dear Hong Kong Red Cross Supporters:

The Year of Dog is officially here! While I’m excited what this guardian dog fortune will bring to us as we ring in the new year, I wish you all good health and prosperity in evert way you expect! May I thank for your generous and continual support to the Hong Kong Red Cross. Your support helps sustain our existing humanitarian services that brings love and blessing to people in need. Countinuing from my recent letters about our education and disaster preparedness and development programmes, this time, I would like to share with you our local community caring services, another less explored but equally important service of the Hong Kong Red Cross.

As most of you may have contented, Hong Kong Red Cross is opting out from direct supervision of hospitals and elderly centres to date, but this has never failed us from realizing our motto “Protect human life, Care for the health of the vulnerable and Respect human dignity” by reaching out to long-stay inpatients in chronic medical conditions and supporting their families in need. In close cooperation with Public Hospitals and District Elderly Community Centres, not only do we schedule regular visits to support the target group during their recovery stage, we work to enhance smoother post-recovery rehabilitation progress by providing a diverse range of mental-physical support services to them, in the hope that the patients can start a new chapter in life more easily once they get healed. On the other hand, in order to promote hygiene and health consciousness among the district groups of elderly, we organize healthcare workshops to educate them with basic first aid and home safety knowledge. It is through these continual effort that we help district elderly build their ability and self-efficacy to monitor body conditions for themselves and their families, and more importantly, to boost their confidence in leading a more fulfilling old age.

Nearly half a century of Community Care Service has left us with not much but a handful of heartwarming stories to share, among which I’ve selected three impressive cases to specifically highlight. These include the story of Uncle Biao (a retired police officer who lost his partial body function as a sequelae of stroke), the story of Hui-ping (a promising young lady who drastically fell amputee in an accident) and the story of Sara (one of our staff who has engaged in hospital service for more than 20 years). It would mean a lot to me if you can take time to read the stories below to hear more about our determined effort in patient caring services, also to gain understanding into our healthcare services. Aspired to raise health and safety awareness among the elderly group, the meaningful workshop is designed upon coping knowledge on emergency preparedness, gradually educating elderly with the proper skills they may need for themselves and their peers in case of the event of accidents.

A Gesture of Care Means Everything
“Uncle Biao had a very weak will to live in his early stage of stroke recovery. The thought of suicide was always on his mind. Until he was later on visited by some caring volunteers on a regular basis, he began to smile more and started to take on a positive attitude.” - Mrs. Lam
Uncle Biao actively participates in rehabilitative activities organized by volunteers of Patient Concern Services, which has led him a happier life.

It has been three years. But to Mrs. Lam, the hardships of her husband (Uncle Biao)’s early days in hospital still hits her like yesterday. That year, Uncle Biao had just retired from his job in the police force at the age of 72, and was about to embrace a new chapter in his life. As an energetic young man, Uncle Biao had always been a fond lover of martial arts especially Yong-chun. And as a retired old man, calligraphy and painting became the hobbies he turned to.

“Day and night, he just sat there and painted. Sometimes he was too focused that when he next stood up from his chair, it’s already 7-8 hours later. The fact that he had a relatively high level of blood glucose, and that he really hadn’t been exercising in a while, one day, he fell down. It just happened that way.” Recollecting the early days following her husband’s stroke, Mrs. Lam still has that lingering fear about the tense situation. Since the stroke had left Uncle Biao paralyzed on both feet and his partial brain function, the poor old man could neither walk nor eat. He had to stay in bed all time, which brought to him another problem of skin infection pressure sores, making care treatment extra difficult.

Fortunately, things began to fall into place as time passed. Now in his third year of stay in Tai Po Hospital, Uncle Biao’s stroke recovery progress is positively hopeful. Not only can he move his left hand, he has also quitted milk diet and started observing a liquid diet with rice porridge among other choices. In addition, the frequent participation in HKRC’s programmes and interaction with its volunteers has apparently made him more cheerful. “His will is strong and he means what he says. Now he can utter short single sentences, and when it comes to painting he becomes really excited.”

Seeing his recent progress, the hospital has offered Uncle Biao the opportunity to learn to operate a wheelchair once a week. “License! I’m getting a wheelchair driving license!” sniggered Uncle Biao in his amusement. “Now you see. This has become his favourite time of the week.” Mrs. Lam smiled contentedly as she continued. “Nothing touches me more than seeing him happy again. I’m really grateful. We haven’t been so happy in a while.”

Visits, Open up Patients to a New World
“Hui-ping is not the only one benefitted from the programme. To be honest, having the chance to talk to or simply chat with the volunteers helps relieve my stress as well.” - Hui-ping’s Aunt
No one will feel the same for the recovery of Hui-ping, except this loving and caring aunt who literally takes care of her niece 24/7. Knowing Hui-ping can soon walk again with the help of assistive products, the mirth on the old woman’s face is priceless.

To the long-stay inpatient Hui-ping, the one occasion to look forward to every week is the regular visit by the HKRC volunteers, because she can get to know what she wants to from the outside. “They update me with weekly news and interesting happenings every time. For that moment I feel a real connection with the world,” chuckled Hui-ping slowly but with a lucid mind. Indeed, it’s hard to associate this 28-year-old lady in front of us with what she has overcome through the years.

A few years ago, Hui-ping had her right leg amputated as the only solution to her delayed medical treatment on an accidental bacterial infection. The event not only left her in a coma for three months, but also deprived her of the ability to speak and made her a victim of Tetraplegia (loss of use of all four limbs) when she next woke up.

Already in her old age, Hui-ping’s aunt took up the sole responsibility to take care of her sister’s child. Luckily, with the joint effort of different parties, Hui-ping’s condition has seen a positive twist recently. Aside from speaking, she has gradually resumed the ability to move her left hand. The hospital is now planning to accelerate her recovery with prosthetics.

“That year was her year to enter university. A girl like her must have had anticipated a lot. And then there was the accident. Everything just came to a halt overnight. I wasn’t sure I could put up with all these even if that was me,” expressed Hui-ping’s aunt from beside. “I’m so pleased now seeing her cheerful face again. These days she’s always talking about getting back to school.” Hui-ping’s aunt is grateful for HKRC’s regular visits and other services of giving her niece and her an immeasurable amount of spiritual support along the way.

Your Happiness is My Happiness
“Taking care of a sick family member for a lasting period is no easy task, the pressure they face is just as huge. Sometimes they also need someone to chat with as a temporary relief. When patients are participating in our programme, we try to take the lead in taking care of them, in the hope that their family members can make good use of the break to rest and relax a little.” - Sara, HKRC’s Staff
Sara has worked in the Patient Concern Services for 20 years, the positive change in attitude on her hospital clients and patients has always been the one reason to stay

Devoting herself in the HKRC’s Patient Concern Service for more than 20 years, the HKRC staff Sara has lately been active in Tai Po Hospital, mainly to perform regular visits and organize activities for inpatients with other volunteers. “I now visit the hospital 2-3 times a week. Adding together inpatients from the men’s and women’s ward, I manage to interact with up to 70 of them everytime. Some show up quite often that we have become old friends.” Much to Sara’s concern, long stays in the hospital will inevitably arouse the feelings of loneliness and depair in the inpatients.

Many of them indeed anticipate much on the regular visits from the volunteers. Yet, since these inpatients are battling against a diverse range of body conditions, some of them are having a relatively unstable state of mind. Especially for those who have difficulty in speaking, a small failure in expressing themselves can cause their sudden change in temper. “I know it isn’t easy. The only way to build love and trust is to put yourself in their shoes.”

Like all the others who succeeded in registering as a hospital volunteer, Sara was also given a series of induction training by the HKRC before she started service long time ago. Ranging from everyday communication to positive psychological training, many of these skills have assisted her greatly on patient service and event coordination through the years. The experiences in hospital visits have also led her to understand the true needs of inpatients, as well as the importance to be grateful and not taking things for granted. “Their happiness is my happiness. It is my motivation to continue my participation in the service.”

Good Sevice Puts Needs Before Anything
“Take Prince of Wales Hospital as an example, timely assistance and resources are mostly allocated to cater patients in need of Accident & Emergency services. We therefore position our role in providing subsidiary services such as companion & escort service and mobility equipment loan service. During rush hours we help assist directions for patients and elderly inside the hospital, at relatively crowded spots like the hospital pharmacy and blood center. Same the other way round, in hospitals which are more centered to providing convalescent services, like Tai Po Hospital, we place more emphasis on assisting inpatients’ psychosocial recovery with schemes like Patient Concern Service.” - Thomas Leung, Head of HKRC Community Care Service Department
In the near future, Mr. Leung hopes to extend the “Patient Concern Service” to areas outside the hospital, together with more innovative homecare services, to truly assist back-at-home elderly patients through their post-recovery life in health and peace.

Activities and visits aside, Patient Concern Service also offers a range of services in different hospitals, such as companion and escort services, mobility equipment loan service and free magazine distribution, to cater the regular needs of inpatients.

“Our mobility equipment loan service, for example, has been continually increasing its service scope to cover the 5 public hospitals including Queen Mary Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital and Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital ever since its founding in 1975 to meet the vast growing demand.” Thomas Leung, Head of Community Care Service Department is confident about the programme’s effectiveness, for it has aligned with various hospitals throughout the past 45 years and played an important subsidiary role on the psychosocial recovery of inpatients, bringing the society together. “It’s a win-win situation all around. We offer patients the loan of wheelchairs, walking frames and crutches among other mobility equipment at affordable prices, in such a way, not only do we help relieve their financial burden, we actually accelerate their recovery and shorten their stay in the hospital, hence freeing up more hospital beds to cope with the ever-growing patient inflow.”

When it comes to the serious topic of the unstoppable ageing population in Hong Kong, Mr. Leung expresses his expectation on more future effort in support of the government’s Integrated Home Care Services scheme. “It takes a certain period of adaption from a long hospital stay to living back at home. Everyday details like the preparation of mobility equipment, or advanced bathroom safety designs with shower grab handles and rubber mats are not to be missed. All these thoughtful transitional measures matter a lot to the smooth and comprehensive recovery of elderly.” He hopes that the mobility equipment loan service among other measures in Patient Concern Service can extend to areas outside the hospital, together with regular health-check visits and more innovative homecare services, to truly assist back-at-home elderly patients through their post-recovery life in health and peace.

Never Too Old To Learn
On top of skill of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, elderly can also gain a deeper understanding in the Adult Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation & Automated External Defibrillation introduction Workshop.
Elderly putting theory into practice with the help of Automated External Defibrillator and CPR Manikins

As far as Mr. Leung is concerned, ageing population is becoming more of a problem in Hong Kong. Over the years, the well-being of elderly has always been a main concern of the HKRC. Beginning in 2003, the HKRC has launched the “5 Stars Health, 5 Stars Home” Community Health Education Project to provide services in Tai Po, Tuen Mun, Kwai Ching and Wong Tai Sin. Through the organizing of workshops on topics such as first aid, disaster preparedness, infectious disease prevention and home safety, the programme works to promote healthy elements of lifestyles to families, also to encourage elderly in assisting themselves and others with the basic first aid knowledge they have learnt (like what we have featured in our previous letter about Elderly First Aid Workshop). Recently, HKRC also organized the free Adult Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation & Automated External Defibrillation Introduction Workshop to further integrate elderly who had already attained certain level of basic first aid knowledge with advanced skills.

The 4-hour workshop was separated into two sessions with the constructive sharing of theory, demonstration, practical training and mock-up case study, mainly to deepen elderly’s understanding on heart disease and the emergency skill of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Together with the introduction to the use of Automated External Defibrillator, the workshop encouraged elderly’s sense of emergency preparedness in every way to increase their self-efficacy in the case of accidents.

The best part about operating an Automated External Defibrillator is no special skills or intelligence required. As long as elderly observe the instructions closely and familiarize themselves with more practice, each of them can be an expert. So goes an old saying – It’s never too late to learn.

Please donate online (one-of donation/regular monthly donation) or download donation form (one-off donation/regular monthly donation). Your donation of HK$500 or monthly donation of HK$200 will help Uncle Biao, Hui-ping and even more long-stay inpatients to receive sufficient care and assistance on their road of recovery, as well as subsidizing elderly in need to participate in Community Health Education Project, which could mean to them a significant recognition and heartening support in embracing a better life.

Best wishes, Bonnie So Bonnie So Secretary General
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