Caregiver support groups can do a world of good for those who need an extra boost to get through tough times.
Caregivers give so much love and attention to the people they care for, but who takes care of them? Long hours, balancing work and family commitments, and social isolation – these are some realities that caregivers face that can burden them physically and emotionally over time.
If you’re a caregiver, know that you don’t have to do it alone. One way to alleviate some of the stress is to connect with other people who are going through a similar situation or who have walked the journey. Caregiver support groups can be a source of comfort by providing a safe space for caregivers to share their feelings and experiences. In Singapore, there are several support groups that serve caregivers seeking support for various types of disabilities.
Sharing is Caring
For Edward Chan, it is the Care and Share Parents Ever Resilient (Casper) support group that gives him a source of comfort. Originally started by a group of parents whose children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were seeing the doctors at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Casper primarily organises forums that feature expert speakers and a sharing circle that allows parents to talk about what’s going on in their lives. Topics that have featured in these forums include supporting care recipients in their puberty journey, and relationships between children with disabilities and their siblings.
“During these closed-door sharing sessions, we can express ourselves freely. People come with questions and we try to help one another the best we can,” said Edward, whose two daughters, aged 8 and 11, have ASD.
“My daughters are still growing, so there will be more challenges to come. I still have a lot to learn, and this kind of face-time with other parents has really helped me.”
In 2018, Edward decided to quit his full-time job as an auditor. He now works as a private-hire car driver, which gives him the flexibility he wants to spend more time with his daughters. In his spare time, he also volunteers at Casper, where he wants to explore collaborating with other organisations, such as SG Enable to organise more activities.
SG Enable, an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities, linked Casper to the Enabling Village, an inclusive community space with a focus on training and employment for persons with disabilities and community services. Last year, Casper held one of their forums at the Enabling Village – a first for its members. The response was very encouraging, and the group will continue to host some of its future forums there, said Edward.
Find Your Tribe
Caregiver support groups in Singapore have evolved over the years – in the past, contact was only available face-to-face, but these days, they exist on several social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp. Such online channels make it easier for caregivers to stay in touch without the need to physically travel somewhere. They also exist for a variety of disabilities – from ASD to cerebral palsy – and for specific communities, like fathers and siblings.
Here are some examples, but you can also check out this list at the Enabling Guide for a more comprehensive compilation of informal support groups.
For Edward, groups like Casper have been a safe haven for parents to call their own, where they can just be themselves and “share good days and bad days” together, he said.
“Parents will pick up knowledge and skills as they learn and grow together with their children, and this can help other parents who are going through a similar situation. This is a community of help and why I became a volunteer,” he explained.
Create Your Own Group
If you can’t find a support group that suits your needs, why not create your own?
With the help of social media, you can easily start your own Facebook group, or reach out to organisations like SG Enable to connect you with the right resources.
If funding activities for your support group is a concern, there are resources out there for you to tap on such as the Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF), which supports ground-up initiatives that help persons with disabilities lead full and socially integrated lives.
The charity fund recognises that caregivers are the first line of support for persons with disabilities, and therefore promotes sustained engagement among caregivers through supporting ground-up initiatives, events, and activities.
You can find more information on the MEF here. If you are interested to apply for funding or find out more about the Fund, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.