Home training program teaches families how to care for seniors

Hu Min
Community-based senior specialists are delivering personalized classes and instruction directly to people's homes.
Hu Min
Home training program teaches families how to care for seniors
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Xu Zhenglian (second left) demonstrates figure exercises to an elderly couple on Tuesday.  

"Be careful, push the wheelchair slowly, and check whether there are obstacles nearby when you move the wheelchair," Xu Zhenglian, a senior care worker, patiently tells 90-year-old Zhao Maolu, a resident of downtown Jing'an District.

These instructions come as part of a training program aimed at families with disabled senior citizens in Shanghai. The program is gradually being rolled out across the city to equip households with basic nursing skills and fill gaps in senior-care services.

Zhao's wife, 83-year-old Zhang Meiping, suffers from chronic health conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease, as well as spinal bifida which limits her movement.

As the couple's children are overseas, they look after each other.

Zhao cares for his spouse alone, although he lacks nursing skills and his age makes things even more difficult.

"You need to press this hard to stop the wheelchair, and please check the pedals carefully," Xu instructs again and again. Alongside, Zhao observes intently.

"I don't know how to care for my wife in a proper way," Zhao said. "My memory deteriorates due to aging, thus I must learn carefully."

Home training program teaches families how to care for seniors
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Senior care worker Xu Zhenglian (second left) teaches 90-year-old Zhao Maolu how to use a wheelchair on Tuesday.

Relying on community-based senior service facilities and agencies, classes such as those offered to Zhao cover a range of physical and mental health topics relevant to seniors, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau said.

Both group training and home visits are offered. There are also services to help ease psychological pressure and avoid health hazards, the bureau said.

The needs of families with seniors are addressed to provide personalized services.

The program was first tested in 2018, when it benefited around 1,500 people in eight local districts, according to the bureau. In a second year of trials, it expanded to nine districts and 4,500 beneficiaries.

The third and fourth batches of trials are underway, the bureau said. By the end of this year, 12 districts will be covered in total.

The services are being provided by 29 senior-care service agencies, up from seven originally, according to the bureau. 

Home training program teaches families how to care for seniors
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Xu Zhenglian takes her bag with coronavirus prevention items, such as disinfectants.

The Nanjing Rd W. Subdistrict, where Zhao and Zhang live, was among the first batch of testing sites. Their training is delivered by Ruifu Senior Care Service Center.

"The training solutions for each family vary, and we make adjustments based on their actual demands," said nursing worker Xu from the center.

"The highlight of this family's guidance is lower limb massage, based on Zhang's condition," she explained.

At the couple's home, Xu, who serves six households with seniors under the program, repeatedly demonstrated proper massage techniques on Tuesday to build Zhao's memory.

She also instructed the couple on how to safely travel outside while using the wheelchair.

"See, you can fasten the safety belt like this. Don't wear slippers when you step on the wheelchair to prevent slipping," Xu told the couple. "Put a blanket on her knees to keep warm."

Along with other health tips, she also informed the couple not to take long baths due to high blood pressure.

The couple have been receiving training sessions for more than one month.

"The project is really good and helpful," said Zhang. "My husband knows how to ease my sore legs with massage now, and my quality of life has improved a lot."

The training teams comprise social workers, psychological counselors, nursing staff, medical workers, therapists and nutritionists, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau said.

Home training program teaches families how to care for seniors
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Xu Zhenglian demonstrates how to use a wheelchair on Tuesday. 

The Ruifu Senior Care Service Center is providing such training in 10 subdistricts and towns, including the Bansongyuan Road Subdistrict, Beicai Town and Wanli Subdistrict, in addition to the Nanjing Rd W. area.

Its classes cover sleep care, bathing, skin management, osteoporosis, heart disease, shoulder periarthritis, diet, nutrition, fire safety and psychological health, among other topics.

It has provided training to nearly 3,000 people, and in-home training for 49 households in the Nanjing Rd W. Subdistrict.

Over 40 percent of the subdistrict's residents are elderly, yet there is a shortage of senior-care facilities in downtown areas.

"We teach families about nursing procedures, how to use wheelchairs, change bedding, medicine intake, how to prevent falling down and avoiding scams," said Lu Xiaomeng, director of the Nanjing Rd W. Community Comprehensive Senior Service Center. "The topics vary."

At least 20 visits to families are required for such training.

"We want to make the work oriented towards seniors, and easy at the same time," she said.

"We also provide psychological consulting services to help seniors enjoy a pleasant life and ease their loneliness," said Lu.

"The purpose is not just providing service, but helping families grasp nursing skills and knowledge, which is more important."

Financial support from the city's welfare lottery fund worth 8.97 million yuan (US$1.28 million) will be delivered for the third and fourth rounds of trials.

The project will eventually be conducted citywide, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau said.

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