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Becoming a Caregiver

This section provides information on common caregiving issues you may encounter. We hope you will find them useful.

Key points

  • Beoming a caregiver can be stressful and emotional, but there are resources that can make things a little easier.
  • Tap on the experience of seasoned caregivers, who have a lot of insight and knowledge to share through support groups.
  • Many types of support groups exist, and it is important to have a good network of support, which can include friends and family members.
  • Doctors and other healthcare workers are instrumental in helping you make informed decisions about how to care for your loved one.


Seeking support from another person

As caregivers, we may feel alone in our caregiving journey but we need not feel this way. Others have similar journeys, and experienced caregivers have invaluable insights and knowledge to share with you.

Actions to take

  • Seek support from others, including other caregivers, doctors, your friends and family.
  • Join a support group; find caregiver support groups.
  • Find information on support for children and adults with disabilities: By disability condition, or by type of disability support.
  • Navigate common caregiving scenarios through this resource.

  • Experienced caregivers can offer personal, tried-and-tested advice on the concerns and challenges faced by caregivers. Some support groups are run by Social Service Agencies (SSAs) or hospitals; others by caregivers themselves. In this day and age, support groups do not just rely on face-to-face meetings – they also have the benefit of connecting on social media and the internet.

    Friends and family members are also important sources of emotional support. Develop a support system of family and friends and meet other caregivers who share similar experiences with you - they are the ones who can journey with you. By helping and encouraging one another, the journey becomes easier.

    Understanding conditions

    Health matters are complicated; but when it concerns your loved one, "complicated" becomes frightening and frustrating.

    Your doctor is an indispensable partner in your care journey. They will discuss with you the next steps to take, which includes attending further clinical sessions or sessions on understanding the disability, and being aware of the resources to help you manage your loved one’s condition.

    It is important to maintain an effective and collaborative 2-way communication with your doctor. Having ready information about your care recipient and sharing your concerns and expectations will allow better information exchange and shared decision-making.

    Look for reliable resources on the internet or visit the library for information. For example, the Caregivers Pod at Enabling Village has an e-kiosk that features a curated collection of disability and caregiving resources from the National Library.

    In Singapore, there are more than 50 SSAs catering to persons with disabilities. Below is a list of service providers catering to persons with disabilities, and which also offer some form of support for their caregivers.


    What to expect after a diagnosis

    For caregivers of young children with special needs

    Specialised support in the form of early intervention services offers help for young children with special needs to develop and to maximise their potential in their growing years. Often, they benefit most from such help in their early childhood years, when they are six years old and younger.

    Through participating in various early intervention programmes, young children with special needs may improve their health, language and communication, cognitive development, and social and emotional development.

    If your child has been assessed to require early intervention support, you may wish to find out more about what EIPIC is, the importance of early intervention, and learn tips on how to support your child during this journey. Download these guides for parents:

    As a new caregiver, you may have many questions on early intervention. To help address some of these questions, an information session for new caregivers is also available. Through this session, you will learn more about early intervention and also techniques to better engage your child, from an experienced caregiver. For more information and to sign up, click here

    Another milestone for many caregivers is their children's education – enrolling their children in a Special Education (SPED) school, mainstream school or even getting an exemption. Having a sense of what lies ahead helps you to think about your options, prepare yourself and make plans for your loved one.  For more information on needs at each life stage, please go to Life Stages & Transitions.

    Life stage needs and key services in the disability sector 

     

    Persons with disabilities may have different needs according to the roles, settings and circumstances that change over the course of their lives, from infancy (ages 0-6) to childhood / teenage years (ages 7-18) to adulthood (above 18 years). The diagram above summarises the various support services available at key life stages.  These include education planning, employment support and care options across all life stages.   Early intervention and child care begins after diagnosis. During early intervention, caregivers can start planning for the child's educational pathway. Majority of children will transit to Primary schools at 7 years old. They will begin their education in mainstream or Special Education (SPED) schools. Their education may continue until they reach the age of 16 and beyond depending on the education pathways they are on. As children grow into teenagers and young adults, they can enrol for work skills training and transition to work programmes to prepare themselves for employment.  Long term care planning and application of deputyship for financial and housing security and alternative care arrangements can begin at teen-hood before students with special needs leave school.  These arrangements will continue into their adulthood until there is a change in the primary caregiver.  Residential care will also be provided for those who need it from childhood until the age of 18. After the age of 18, persons with disabilities will transit into adulthood where adult services are made available to them. For those who are able, they can choose to further their education or find employment through Job Placement Job Support employment services available. Residential care for children will be replaced at this stage by residential care for adults. As persons with disabilities reach 60 years old, they will need to consider eldercare services. Persons with disabilities may have different needs according to the roles, settings and circumstances that change over the course of their lives, from infancy (ages 0-6) to childhood / teenage years (ages 7-18) to adulthood (above 18 years). The diagram above summarises the various support services available at key life stages.  These include education planning, employment support and care options across all life stages.   Early intervention and child care begins after diagnosis. During early intervention, caregivers can start planning for the child's educational pathway. Majority of children will transit to Primary schools at 7 years old. They will begin their education in mainstream or Special Education (SPED) schools. Their education may continue until they reach the age of 16 and beyond depending on the education pathways they are on. As children grow into teenagers and young adults, they can enrol for work skills training and transition to work programmes to prepare themselves for employment.  Long term care planning and application of deputyship for financial and housing security and alternative care arrangements can begin at teen-hood before students with special needs leave school.  These arrangements will continue into their adulthood until there is a change in the primary caregiver.  Residential care will also be provided for those who need it from childhood until the age of 18. After the age of 18, persons with disabilities will transit into adulthood where adult services are made available to them. For those who are able, they can choose to further their education or find employment through Job Placement Job Support employment services available. Residential care for children will be replaced at this stage by residential care for adults. As persons with disabilities reach 60 years old, they will need to consider eldercare services.


    For caregivers of persons with acquired disabilities

    The impact of a loved one acquiring a disability from a serious illness or accident goes far beyond the disability itself. There are the immediate pressures of looking after someone who used to be fit and independent, and coping with their physical and emotional needs. Then there could be problems with family finances, and the challenge of juggling work and family commitments with caregiving duties. All these could leave even the most loving, committed caregiver feeling stretched, overwhelmed and exhausted. 

    Connecting with more experienced caregivers can help – after all, they are people who are coping and surviving, and have personal expertise to share. Some caregiver support groups are more informal; others also offer structured programmes to help caregivers. 

    If your loved one is receiving support from a social service agency for persons with disabilities, you could also check if it provides caregiver support activities or programmes.

    Persons with acquired disabilities may have also successfully re-integrated into the workforce. SG Enable’s Hospital-to-Work (H2W) programme provides participants with a holistic suite of services that includes rehabilitation, personal development and skills training, and employment assistance. Support is coordinated through a H2W Case Manager.


    Bringing your loved ones with disabilities home from hospital

    Actions to take

    • Talk to your healthcare providers about post-hospitalisation plans.
    • Get your home ready for your loved one.
    • Learn specific skills to manage your loved one’s condition.

    Bringing your loved one home after a hospital stay can be both joyful and a little frightening. Here are some things you can do.


    Working with healthcare providers

    Caregivers can check with doctors and medical social workers for more information on post-hospitalisation plans. Discharge planning should start early during hospitalisation. This will allow adequate time for the healthcare team to prepare for any referrals, rehabilitation and post-discharge needs, including home care. A discharge plan will reduce stress and allow the caregiver to be more prepared.


    Making your home conducive for caregiving and disability-friendly

    You may need to make changes to your home to make it easier and safer for persons with disabilities to live more independently, and for caregivers to perform care tasks. These include:

    • Changing the physical space – arranging of furniture, widening doorways to create room for ambulating and carrying out care tasks.
    • Adding fittings and fixtures – these include grab bars and ramps for mobility, lowering light switches, using lever instead of knob taps.
    • Buying Assistive Technology (AT) devices and software – there is a host of AT devices that can facilitate independent living and care tasks. For more information, visit the Assistive Technology section of this website.

    • Making the HDB apartments more senior-friendly. For more information, visit the Money Matters section of this website.

    Some can be done quickly; others require planning and cost. But what actually needs to be done depends on the home itself and the support needs of the person with disabilities. You can seek advice from therapists in hospitals or your SSA. Smart home devices can also be used to let persons with disabilities be more independent at home. For more information on smart home devices, see below:


    Training

    Prior to discharge, hospitals provide training to family members on how to care for their loved ones at home. Various SSAs and private service providers also provide training on home care and caregiving skills. A number of these are supported by the Caregiver Training Grant (CTG). For more information on CTG and the courses it supports, see below: 

    For more information on schemes and services that support persons with disabilities, including hiring a foreign domestic worker or live-in caregiver, visit our Disability Support - Introduction page.


    Getting support at work and financial assistance

    Actions to take

    • Ask your company about your leave entitlement and the possibility of working from home and other flexi-work arrangements.
    • Explore financial aid options to support your caregiver journey.


    Managing work

    Juggling the demands of a career and caregiving can be challenging, and finding the right mix of family care, professional care and work can depend on many factors. There are factors that you can control, such as finding the right support and working with service providers, and other factors that are beyond your control.

    Legally, employees are entitled to certain leaves of absence; these include child care leave, maternity leave, paternity leave and more. For more information on eligibility and entitlements for different types of leave, see below:

    Caregivers can also consider no-pay leave and other flexi-work arrangements such as telecommuting, staggered work hours and part-time work. These are not legal entitlements and are up to employer's consent.


    Financial assistance for caregivers

    The government is providing more support to caregivers. See MOH’s Caregiver Support Action Plan. One of the financial assistance schemes made available since Oct 2019 is the Home Caregiving Grant (HCG) which provides a $200 monthly cash payout to help defray caregiving expenses. The Home Caregiving Grant replaces the previous Foreign Domestic Worker Grant.

    There are also various financial assistance schemes and subsidies tied to the use of services. For example, the Foreign Domestic Worker Levy Concession (FDWLC) and Assistive Technology Fund.

    Some types of assistance are intended for the support of the person with disabilities, but others are generally provided to lower-income households. For more information, visit the Money Matters section of this website.

    For more information on caregiving, do visit the Empowering Caregivers section in this website.

    Resources and support