The incidence and management of stress for those who care for people with special needs has received much media attention of late. However, management of caregivers’ stress requires a multi-pronged approach. There is no single approach that can effectively tackle the complexity of this issue that is likely to be ongoing throughout the journey of a caregiver. SPD does its part to support and recognise the often unsung efforts of these caregivers by organising the annual SPD caregivers’ appreciation day held on 11 Oct this year. SPD’s senior social worker Angela Chung shares her experience for that day.
The SPD Caring for the Caregivers’ Day, as this year’s caregivers’ appreciation day is called, carried the central theme of three Rs – Relax, Recharge and Respite, and was aimed at targeting three segments of self, namely the Mind, Body and Soul.
Ms Apple Chan giving a presentation on Diet & Health
The caregivers’ programme kicked off in the morning with a psycho-educational talk entitled “Understanding & Coping with Caregivers’ stress”. This was followed by a talk by Ms Apple Chan, a dietician, who gave tips on keeping fit with the food we consume in a segment called “Diet & Health for a Healthier You”. Two physical training instructors also pumped up the group’s energy by leading a simple exercise segment after the talks. The highlight of the day for many of the 30 caregivers who attended the programme was the relaxing foot and body massage provided by the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped Mobile Massage Team.
As the programme was aimed at not only engaging the mind, but also the heart and soul, glutinous rice ball and paper-flower making workshops were conducted by volunteers for 67 clients or care recipients while the caregivers were participating in the caregivers’ programme. This respite arrangement was welcomed by the caregivers, many whom did not have alternative care arrangement for their charges. The concurrent respite segment gave the caregivers peace of mind knowing that their charges were meaningfully engaged and learning new skills.
The symbolic meaning of the activity could not be over-emphasised. The care recipients learned the art of making glutinous rice balls or “汤圆”, which in the Chinese culture symbolises family unity. As the programme drew to a close, the caregivers were surprised and many were visibly touched with the glutinous rice ball treats that were handmade by their disabled family members as a show of their appreciation.
What set this caregivers’ event apart from the previous year’s was the conscious effort to harness the capabilities of our beneficiaries and creating opportunities for them to contribute to the event. We borrowed from the Asset Based Community Development concept which believes that individuals in their communities have gifts and abilities that can be tapped on to benefit others. One of our beneficiaries, 24-year-old Vanessa Leong, who was born with Spina Bifida, was approached to conduct the paper flower making workshop so that care recipients could present their handicrafts to their caregivers as tokens of appreciation. Similarly, another SPD beneficiary, 48-year-old William Ngo, who has muscular dystrophy, played familiar tunes on the harmonica to contribute to a more relaxing ambience while the caregivers were enjoying their foot and body massages. William also shared an inspiring testimony on how he overcame adversities to be where he is today.
It was indeed an empowering experience for persons with disabilities to contribute in their own ways and, at the same time, enlightening for the caregivers to see that individuals with disabilities too are capable of contributing and giving back to the communities that once supported them.
“Thank you SPD for organising this event. It was an eye opener to me, to know that I’m not alone as a caregiver. There are a lot of caregivers who are the same as me,” commented Mdm Anisah Bte Nga Temin, one of the participants.
The event was met with much enthusiasm and we hope to organise more of such activities in the near future to alleviate caregivers’ stress and help them cope better.