Caregivers need training, societal recognition

 Nurse Sim Lai Kiow, holding the hands of an elderly.
Nurse Sim Lai Kiow, holding the hands of an elderly. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Senior Minister of State for Health and Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor's statement - "Increasingly more people will be involved in the caregiving process for their loved ones. However, many are not mentally prepared to take on this role" - is very true ("Caregivers taught to manage mental, emotional stress"; Sunday).

Unlike other roles in society, the caregiver role is thrust upon a person suddenly, especially if it involves an elderly relative. It impacts the caregiver's life in multiple areas, such as employment, marriage, social life, financial circumstances and psycho-emotional balance.

It is commendable that Ren Ci Community Hospital and Brahm Centre have come together to offer a programme that addresses the psychological and emotional impact of caregiving.

Caregivers include professionals and family members. Sometimes, there is an overlap - a nurse, for instance, may be caring for patients at work and an ageing mother after work.

Emotional, social and mental stress are faced by both groups of caregivers.

Currently, in Singapore, there are several organisations that cater to caregivers, such as AWWA Centre for Caregivers, Caregivers' Association of the Mentally Ill and iCare. The Caregivers Training Grant disbursed by the Agency for Integrated Care has helped more caregivers to attend training sessions.

However, the holistic approach - that covers the practical, social, psychological and informational aspects of caregiving - is lacking in many of the training programmes.

The Silver Caregivers Cooperative (SCCL), a not-for-profit organisation, was established in July 2013 by a group of passionate volunteers (mainly caregivers of elders) to fill this gap of holistic training and education.

SCCL's vision is encapsulated in the mission "Caring for Caregivers".

SCCL champions the cause of family caregivers by facilitating support, and empowering them with holistic skill sets in professional care and training.

Through its integrated resource network, SCCL will also provide caregivers with support, such as home-based health screening, workshops and social networking events.

The cooperative envisions a caring society, where care recipients' needs are addressed by well-informed caregivers. It also aims to raise awareness of the social contribution made by caregivers to society, and the social and emotional challenges they face.

The philosophy of former caregivers helping "new" caregivers of seniors by sharing and caring forms the backbone of SCCL.

More recognition and encouragement by employers, as well as appreciation from other family members of the tremendous challenges faced and sacrifices made by caregivers, would surely help to make the caregiving journey lighter.

Kalyani K. Mehta (Dr)

Chairman

Silver Caregivers Cooperative

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Caregivers need training, societal recognition'. Print Edition | Subscribe