Personality Spotlight

Meet Staff from our CREST and CoC team: Alan Yong, Lynn Ling and Josephine Tang

Published on 14 Mar 2023

Meet Alan Yong, Senior Care Manager, and Lynn Ling, Care Manager from Community Resource Engagement and Support (CREST) team. They are both registered social workers who focus on the care of those living in Taman Jurong and Henderson Dawson respectively. From the Community of Care (CoC) team, meet Josephine Tang, who is trained in Psychology. Let them share with you what their jobs are like, what keeps them motivated and the impact they make!

Q: Could you share with us what your job roles are like?

Alan: As community social workers under CREST, we engage and assess seniors and their caregivers on their health and social needs. Our work involves creating community awareness about mental wellness, linking seniors up with service providers based on their various needs, and engaging their caregivers. We help to refer seniors to the Social Service Office so that they can get financial assistance, Home Personal Care Services when they are just discharged and no one can look after them, or medical escort and transport services so that they can get to doctors’ appointments. We provide caregivers with resources and support them should they experience caregiver burnout.

Lynn: To assess seniors and their caregivers, we use various early periodic tools, such as the Community Screening Tool. The tool allows us to identify and assess the residents in the community who are at risk or already at risk of a particular health condition or disease such as dementia or mental health and social needs. We then refer the individual to appropriate resources and service providers based on the assessment results.

So for example, through a conversation with seniors, we will first identify their needs. If a senior is found to be isolated, we will encourage them to join NTUC Health’s Active Ageing Centres (AAC) to widen their social circle and get active in the community. I personally endeavour to discover seniors’ strengths and interests, for example, I encouraged a senior, Clara, to sign up as an AAC volunteer to teach simple English communication to the seniors there as she has a rather good command of the language and is keen to do so.

We also use tools such as the Abbreviated Mental Test (AMT). It is a 10-item cognitive screening instrument designed to rapidly test cognitive function in the individual for the possibility of dementia. It is also known as Hodkinson’s Mental Test Score. It is not diagnostic. If an individual is screened positive, the individual will require further evaluation.

Another tool is the Even Briefer Assessment Scale for Depression (EBAS DEP). It is a screening tool for assessing, monitoring, and evaluating depression symptoms in adults. A score of 3 or greater indicates the probable presence of depressive disorder, which may need treatment, and a doctor should assess the senior.

We also collaborate with other community partners so that we can provide holistic care support. Our CREST and CoC teams regularly collaborates with community partners such as Trigen, a social organisation that comprises healthcare volunteers and Singapore General Hospital, to organise public health screenings and talks to raise public awareness on mental health issues, support the residents’ well-being and stimulate their cognitive functions. We act as a node to link individuals to relevant health and social care services when necessary.

For caregivers, we have a Caregiver Support Group (CSG). We support caregivers through their caregiving journey, and aim to reduce caregiver stress through a sharing platform that we have on Whatsapp.

Case management is also part of our routine. We encounter clients who have the tendency to hoard and face mental health issues. My clients are mainly caregivers suffering from caregiver stress. I must lend them a listening ear, avoid being judgmental, be emphathising, and be able to provide basic emotional counselling to identify their psychosocial needs. Sometimes, I also act as a broker to connect clients with suitable resources and programmes.

Josephine: For me, as a Community Partnership Executive, I mainly focus on community outreach through door-knocking and community events organised together with our partners. During community outreach, we aim to reach out and serve the different profiles of seniors in the community. We help to identify their needs and provide service linkages to support them. On top of that, we seek to promote preventive care through encouraging an active ageing lifestyle. Beyond community outreach, the CoC team also runs events such as functional and health screening as well as active ageing talks together with our partners. The CoC team focuses more on community outreach where we profile the needs of the residents. Upon identifying seniors with mental health needs or individuals who are involved in caregiving, we refer them to our CREST colleagues to further provide further assessment monitoring services if necessary. Together, we work as a team to serve the needs in the community.

Q: What inspired you to take up this job and what motivates you to stay on?

Alan: When I first joined NTUC Health, I merely thought that my job is meaningful as we support vulnerable seniors. It is rewarding when a senior appreciates our efforts and support rendered to them. Hearing a simple “Thank You” can be very satisfying. Now that I have been in the job for six years, I realise that my job involves more than supporting the seniors in the area I serve. It also involves helping to plug the service gaps in the community and this benefits the general ageing population. Our feedback to the Ministry of Health matters and we have seen improvements being made based on these feedback offered. To know that my opinions count, and being able to advocate for the vulnerable also motivates me to stay on.

Lynn: My late grandmother was the person who inspired me to help the community. Although she was illiterate, she was wise and passionate about helping others. She taught me to be generous and kind. Sharing her experiences with helping others and teaching me the proverb, “to teach people how to fish, not just spoon-feed so that they can break away from the poverty chain,” planted the seed that grew my social work.

My other motivation is my son. He is proud of me for walking into people’s lives and making it better.

Josephine: I am motivated by the impact I make in the community. For example, when I see seniors who were less socially active become more involved in the community through Active Ageing activities because I had referred them to the AACs. Or when I see seniors take more ownership towards managing their health and quality of life after functional screenings.

This February we started having ‘Welcome Parties’ at AAC (Taman Jurong) - an initiative for seniors who are not familiar with the AACs to come down and get oriented on the activities available. It’s nice to see seniors mingle and make new friends during the party. Moving forward, we are looking to run this event monthly or bi-monthly.

Q: For Alan and Lynn, how does a community social worker’s job differ from that of a medical social worker (MSW)?

Lynn: Care Managers like Alan and myself, and MSWs share similarities in supporting and assisting those in need. We abide by the same Code of Professional Ethics (Singapore Association of Social Workers). However, there are differences in terms of the settings in which we work and the specific focus of our work.

Alan: As a community social worker, we have the opportunity to work closer with seniors while they are in a familiar environment - their homes. It's interesting that we often hear feedback that seniors "behave well" in the hospital settings, adhering to most instructions and medications. However when they are discharged, seniors may not follow what was instructed, like continuing their physiotherapy or even medication adherence. So we have to remind them what they were instructed and monitor their well-being in case their condition deteriorates.

Lynn: MSWs work in healthcare settings such as hospitals and nursing homes. Their primary duties and responsibilities are to support and assist patients and their families in dealing with medical and health-related issues. They assist patients in coping with their illnesses, provide counselling and support during treatment, and help them navigate the healthcare system.

Our primary focus differentiates us from MSWs. While we focus on addressing community social and mental health issues, MSWs focus on addressing medical and health-related issues in a hospital setting. We may work with a broader range of clients, including those who do not have health issues. In contrast, MSWs primarily work with patients and their families.

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