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Gaining confidence and competence in caregiving

Caring for loved ones with disabilities is not an easy journey – it can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it is not a walk in the park. But there are some things caregivers can do to help them care for their loved ones better.

Key points

  • There are several important things that can help caregivers with their caregiving duties. These include:
    • Familiarity with disability supports
    • Good care skills
    • Self-care


Familiarity with disability support is one; good care skills are another. Yet more importantly is self-care – caregivers must be in good shape themselves in order to take care of their loved ones.


Care skills

There are various other ways for caregivers to equip themselves with skills and techniques to carry out daily care tasks, therapy and intervention, and condition management.

Actions to take

  • Learn more about caregiving skills and techniques through formal training courses or self-study with books, online resources, or VR modules.


Courses

Formal caregiving training is probably the most straightforward option. The Caregivers Training Grant (CTG) provides subsidies for the cost of training undertaken by caregivers - a list of courses supported by CTG can be found below:

SSAs, private service providers, hospitals and employment agencies may also provide training relevant to caregivers.

As service providers such as educators and therapists have limited interaction time with their clients, family caregivers may find it useful to learn from their service providers where possible, so that they can reinforce the training or therapy at home. Some service providers conduct courses for this purpose – caregivers may like to reach out to them to find out more.

Self-study

Many caregivers gain skills and knowledge from books, library resources and the Internet. Visit the Resources section in this website for a non-exhaustive compilation of useful e-books, brochures, toolkits and publications. 

Videos are another useful resource. Caregivers can watch live demonstrations, learn tips and get advice from other caregivers and professionals, such as psychologists, therapists and teachers. The following video series contains useful information for caregivers:

To offer more learning options, SG Enable has made available some virtual reality (VR) modules that can help caregivers better understand how their loved ones experience the world as well as teach them life skills. Some of these modules include:

These modules are available on YouTube or the Storyhive app. They are better viewed with VR goggles. Those who do not own VR goggles may arrange to watch the videos at the Caregivers Pod at Enabling Village. 

In the course of searching for information or reading up on a topic, one may come across different methods and schools of thought regarding therapy and intervention. These can be confusing to even experienced caregivers. Naturally, it can be tempting to chase the latest ‘treatment’ or ‘cure’ - caregivers may want to seek professional advice, review available evidence, talk to others and proceed with caution.

 

Self-care and respite

Actions to take

  • Take time to care for yourself. Consider different options for respite care, such as home-care services, day activity centres, and drop-in disability services.
  • Be part of a community by joining caregiver support groups.
  • Seek professional counselling or mental health support if you feel that your mental well-being is declining.


As a caregiver, you may find it hard to find time for a break. It is important, however, that you do – both for you and for the person you care for. Looking after your physical, emotional and mental well-being is a necessity for the long-run, not something to feel guilty about. A healthy caregiver is able to care better for his/her loved ones. The Health Promotion Board and Health Hub offer health tips and programmes for healthy living.

You can also check out the following caregiver resources:

  1. The ABCs of caregiving: A guide by SPD (Practical info for caregiving needs and self-care)
  2. A Caregiver’s Guide to avoid Burnout by Singapore Silverpages
  3. Carer365 by Tan Tock Seng Hospital Physiotherapists (Self-care tips and workouts for your physical, emotional and mental well-being)

Caregivers looking after someone who needs constant attention may find it difficult to take time away from caregiving – even for a short hour or two. This means having to find an alternative caregiver who can be trusted – ‘trusted’ being the operative word. No one can be exactly the same as you, the primary caregiver. That said, knowing what respite options are available can help you plan better when the need arises.

The common types of respite care include the following:

  1. Professional home-care services for home-based respite care
  2. Community-based facilities for respite care during the day
  3. Disability homes for short-term respite care
  4. Activity-based programmes for respite care on a weekly basis

These activity-based programmes, which are usually conducted on a weekly basis, keep people with disabilities meaningfully engaged while providing a few hours of respite time for caregivers.

Caring for someone with disability is a long-term, if not life-long, commitment, so caregiver burnout and mental distress are very real issues. Find a support group or meet other caregivers whom you can talk to. Keep in touch with friends. It is important not to be alone in your care journey.

When the pressure builds up, professional counselling or therapy may give caregivers much-needed help to regain their balance. Friends and family can be good sounding boards as they can be quicker to spot tell-tale signs of mental and emotional distress. Seeking help should not be seen as a sign of weakness. For more information in mental wellness and seeking help, click on the links below:

 For more resources for caregivers, check out the resources section in this website.

Long term care planning

Actions to take

  • Start planning your finances early, especially when you have to support a loved one with special needs.
  • Consider setting up a trust fund or writing a will to ensure your loved one will be cared for in the future.


Caregivers are naturally anxious about who will look after their child when they are no longer around. There is no simple solution to this, but starting early to address this issue can give caregivers more runway to make plans and take action.


Identity

Caregivers can consider applying for the Developmental Disability Registry (DDR) Identity (ID) card to help members of the public identify and extend appropriate assistance to their child with special needs, giving caregivers a better peace of mind.


Financial security and estate planning

Caring for a loved one with special needs brings various challenges – physical, emotional and financial -  both to the child with special needs and the family members. Typically, financial planning may not be essential as parents care for their children until they are old enough to earn a livelihood for themselves.

However, when it comes to children with special needs, provision of care from parents never really stops, even when they become older and are no longer employed. Hence, careful and adequate financial planning is required for families with special needs children.

A trust fund is one of the many estate planning tools that parents can consider. It ensures that there is a steady income stream for their care recipients when they can no longer be cared for. With a minimum sum of $5,000, a trust fund can be set up through the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC), the only non-profit company with trust services for persons with disabilities. More information can be found here.

Caregiver may also consider writing a will, which is an integral part of estate planning. It allows caregivers to distribute their assets according to their wishes, and ensure that their children continue to be supported after their passing. Without a will, the State will distribute one’s property to various relatives according to the Intestate Succession Act. For more information and services on wills and estate management, log on to the My Legacy portal.

Preparing for your own needs

When measures are in place for your child, do take time to consider your own personal needs and wishes. My Legacy is a one-stop digital portal that directs you to services, and guides you on everything related to future care planning – from  palliative care, estate settlement matters to funeral matters. By documenting your wishes and plans, you can receive the care you want and help your loved ones handle difficult decisions when the time comes.

Resources and support