HKU professor gives special tips on elderly care Apart from masks and sanitizers, warmth and support is crucial

Over the past three months when Hong Kong was suffering from an acute shortage of masks under the COVID-19 outbreak, the elderly were seen queuing up overnight for masks in cold and rain.

Professor Terry Lum, Henry G Leong Professor in Social Work and Social Administration and Head of Department of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), who specialises in elderly care and behavioural health, points out that in addition to donating masks and sanitisers, it is also important to demonstrate in the process care for the elderly’s mental well-being.

While some elderly people are able to obtain information from TV and online, many of them are staying at home having only limited access to the outside world, for reasons including disabilities, inconvenience, or lack of protective devices like face masks. This group of elderly is seriously affected by the epidemic. “They are isloated and more likely to feel worried and anxious, increasing the risk of depression,” said Professor Lum.

The HKU Development and Alumni Affairs Office, with the advice of Professor Lum collaborated with 19 social welfare organisations to deliver over 20,000 face masks donated by HKU alumni to the elderly. “The key is to make them feel that someone cares.” Professor Lum suggests family members to visit their elderly members in turn at different times so that they can continuoulsy feel the love and have someone to talk to. He also suggests family members and caregivers to give the elderly a phone call frequently “to enquire about their health conditions, what they have done, and talk about things that make them happy – these kinds of caring chats and gestures are the most important.”

About 4,000 masks were given to stroke and renal patients. Some masks manufactured in Indonesia with special design were given to Hong Kong Unison and the Muslim Council of Hong Kong. Mr Syed Ridwan Elahi, Vice Chairman of Muslim Council of Hong Kong, expressed his gratitude to the many caring individuals and groups that have reached out to them. He said: “This is the time when we need to help each other, regardless of race or class.”

Ms Bernadette Tsui, HKU Associate Vice-President, said, “At the beginning of the outbreak, we received donations of masks from overseas, and the University was able to connect to the community. As the supply of masks has stabilised in Hong Kong in April, the most important thing now is to share love, care, kindness and mutual support.”

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