Appreciating Our Caregivers

SPD held its first inaugural caregivers’ event in September 2013. Senior social worker Ms Angela Chung tells Updates the rationale behind the event and the activities planned for the participants.

SPD held its first inaugural caregivers’ event in September 2013. Senior social worker Ms Angela Chung tells Updates the rationale behind the event and the activities planned for the participants.

With better health-care, people with disabilities are living longer and leading fulfilling lives. This means that their caregivers would have to cope with a longer caregiving journey with fewer opportunities for respite and emotional reprieve. As such, many caregivers often experience a gamut of emotions ranging from guilt, stress, depression, frustration, helplessness, just to name a few. That is apart from the physical ailments some have to endure such as backaches, interrupted sleep, chronic fatigue and reduced concentration, all of which may result from the daily toil of care-giving.

These caregivers are also considered the sandwiched generation as they have to care for ageing parents, in-laws, children, spouses, as well as cope with stress in their regular jobs. Sadly, in the process of caring for others, many caregivers ignore and neglect their own well-being.

SPD’s Community & Social Service Department (CSSD) recognises that the family is the first line of support for persons with disabilities and therefore, the imperative to expand the focus of our service provision from being client-centric to family-centric.

With the primary aim of showing appreciation and validating their hard work and dedication, the CSSD invited caregivers and their charges under the Specialised Case Management Programme to the inaugural SPD Caregivers’ Appreciation Day held at the SPD Ability Centre on 7 September 2013. Despite the drizzle, 30 caregivers and 18 of their charges turned up for the event.

The event kicked off with two speakers from SG Enable and Special Needs Trust Centre (SNTC) providing pertinent information on how to ensure a financial safety net for loved ones with disabilities, addressing a perennial worry of many caregivers. A caregiver also shared her personal challenges and joys, as well as how she coped with the peaks and troughs of caregiving. Her candid sharing brought several caregivers to tears as her message of caregiving challenges and her resilient spirit resonated with the audience.

Despite coming from different backgrounds, the caregivers are bonded through a shared experience – an arduous caregiving journey that only fellow travellers can understand. While useful information to caregivers is empowering, it is the human connection and that sense of ensuing identification, that sense of ‘you are not alone’ and ‘I have been there and done that too’, that ultimately touches hearts and bonds the caregivers.

Whilst the caregivers were listening to the various presentations, the care recipients prepared a surprise for their caregivers. Under the guidance of several volunteers, they created appreciation gifts. The moment came and flower bouquets, cards, wind chimes, origami paper cranes and other handmade items were presented to the caregivers by their charges. This was a particularly touching moment for the caregivers and the care recipients as their appreciation, commitment and devotion for each other was affirmed through this expression of gratitude.

The event culminated in a combined family activity. Participants pinned down significant family events and happenings on pieces of wood as a personal interpretation of their families. We were heartened to see the participants so engaged in their artwork which was presented to them as a memento at the end of the programme.

It was a busy but meaningful weekend, well spent in honouring and appreciating the efforts of our caregivers. Through the activities, we believed we have imparted the message to all caregivers that we care because you care.