Caring for a vulnerable family member — can be long and demanding journey, and the stress that comes with it can take a serious toll on a caregiver’s health — especially if there is no one else to share the burden of care. If left unchecked, it can lead to caregiver burnout, a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion.
Caregiver burnout can affect everyone involved. The caregiver may not be able to provide quality care to the person with disability. This can impact a relationship and lead to the care recipient experiencing heightened stress and/or a manifestation of behavioral issues. It may also cause strain or breakdown in family relations, especially between spouses.
To better support persons with disabilities and their caregivers, SG Enable, an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities, has developed the Enabling Guide. The first-stop information web portal provides practical information on schemes, services, supports and resources related to disabilities in Singapore.
Below are some valuable tips from the Enabling Guide to help caregivers care for themselves.
TIP 1: TACKLE THE ISSUE ONE STEP AT A TIME
New caregivers may encounter different issues as they come to terms with the disability and navigate through the early stages of the caregiving journey. Here are some immediate steps to take:
Understand your loved one’s condition. When a diagnosis is made, caregivers have should discuss with their doctor on the next course of action. They should also speak with a medical social worker, who can help caregivers make informed decisions on the available care options for their loved ones.
Adapt the home environment to make it disability-friendly. These include installing fixtures like grab bars and ramps, lowering light switches, widening doorways and rearranging furniture.
Tap on financial support. Various financial assistance schemes and subsidies are provided by the government. Visit the enablingguide.sg for more information.
TIP 2: BE EQUIPPED WITH THE RIGHT SKILLS
Becoming an experienced caregiver does not happen overnight. Caregivers should learn to settle into their roles with broad learning areas, such as understanding the role of a caregiver, familiarizing themselves with various disability support programmes and grants, providing psychosocial support to their loved one with disability, and building stronger family bonds.
One way caregivers can acquire care skills to assist their loved ones in their activities of daily living, is to sign up for a caregiver training course, which is offered by private service providers or hospitals. Caregivers can also self-learn from books or online resources, which include videos offering tips and demonstrations.
TIP 3: MUST NOT NEGLECT SELF-CARE
Caregivers may be so focused on looking after persons with disabilities that they neglect their own needs. It is important for caregivers to recognize that they need to take regular breaks and look after their physical, mental and emotional health. Here are some ways caregivers can keep their well-being in check:
• Find time for yourself. Look for a trusted person to fill in for you for a few hours, so that you can enjoy time off to pursue your hobbies or hangout with a friend. Alternatively, enroll your loved one in a suitable service or programme that he/she is eligible for.
• Speak to someone. Do not bottle up your worries. Join a caregiver support group, which can offer you a safe platform to meet other caregivers. Hear from them, share your stories and gain support from being part of the community. Caregivers can also attend counselling sessions at a family service centers, or talk to family and friends. Sharing your feelings can help you regain your balance.
• Prioritize your goals. We all have multiple roles to play and it is important to set achievable goals and prioritize your tasks.
HOW TO SUPPORT CAREGIVERS
Here are what family, friends and neighbors can do:
Stay connected. Remind caregivers they are not alone by calling or sending them a text message to find out how they are doing. If you know of a neighbor who is a caregiver, greet him or her when you see them in the neighborhood. Other small gestures such as delivering home-cooked food to caregivers or inviting them out for a coffee and chat can go a long way.
Do not judge. Should you witness a person with disability having a meltdown or know of a caregiver who has decided to relinquish or outsource certain caregiving duties, be supportive and encouraging. Give caregivers space to process their emotions and feelings.
Lend a hand. Offer to pick up groceries for the caregiver, or provide care for their loved ones while caregivers take time to recharge. There are many ways to help — find a way to show your support.
This article is brought to you in collaboration with Southeast CDC. You may find a copy of the article in https://www.cdc.gov.sg/flipbook/southeast/flipbook/contact-se-may-aug-2021/#p=20