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Gaining confidence and competence in caregiving

Caring for loved ones with disabilities is no easy journey – it can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it is no walk in the park. But there are some things caregivers can do to help them care for their loved ones better.

Familiarity with disability supports 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 the skills and techniques to carry out daily care tasks, therapy and intervention, and condition management.

Courses

Formal 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 the courses supported by CTG can be found below:

SSAs (previously known as VWOs), 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 extend the same training or therapy to the person they care for at home. Some service providers do conduct courses for this purpose – caregivers may like to check with them.

Self-study

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

Videos are another resource for self-study. Caregivers can watch live demonstrations, learn tips and get advice from other caregivers and professionals, such as psychologists, therapists and teachers. Check out the following video series:

SG Enable has also 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.

These modules are on YouTube or Storyhive app. They are better viewed with VR goggles. For those who do not have such goggles, they could arrange to watch the videos at the Caregivers Pod at Enabling Village. 

In the course of searching for information or researching on a topic, one may come across different methods and schools of thought regarding therapy and intervention, which 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 the evidence, talk to others and proceed with caution.

 

Self-care & Respite

Caregivers often find it hard to take a break. But it is important 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.

For caregivers looking after someone needing constant attention, taking time away from caregiving – even for a short hour or two - means finding 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 arise. The common types of respite include professional home-care services, or community-based facilities which provide some respite for caregivers during the day, such as day activity centre and drop-in disability service.  Disability homes offer short-term live-in respite care. Other activity-based respite programmes enhance the social integration of the persons with disabilities while allowing caregivers some rest time.

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 the 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, see the links below:

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

Long Term Care Planning

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.

Developing your child’s abilities and strengths

Parents want to protect their children and keep them safe from harm – and all the more so if the child has a disability. The downside is that parents could overprotect their child or have too low expectations of them, which hampers their development and ability to live independently. Helping your child build self-confidence and develop to his/ her full potential require the setting of healthy expectations and goals, and encouraging the child to learn and explore safely, and do things for him/ herself to the extent possible.

Schools and service providers may run leisure or sports activities that interest your child. Or you can check out the Events page on this website.

Financial security and estate planning

Caring for a loved one with special needs brings various challenges – physically, emotionally and financially, 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 to cope.

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, go 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.