A blessing to care for loved ones

A file photo of a caregiver pushing an elderly on a wheelchair.
A file photo of a caregiver pushing an elderly on a wheelchair.PHOTO: ST FILE

Senior manager Cleo Chiang, 37, was at a crossroads three years ago when her father was first diagnosed with dementia.

"I was thinking whether I could cope by myself, especially as my mum, 72, is also getting on in age," said the primary caregiver to her father, 76.

Financially, it is challenging. Daycare services cost about $1,200 a month, while dementia medicine costs $3 a day, she said.

At other times, the challenge is emotional. "My dad is no longer what he used to be. At times, he cannot recognise me. He has mood swings and behaves out of his character," she said.

"Initially, it was emotionally frustrating when I could not understand why my father was responding in a certain way, and needed time to adjust."

She added: "My friends and sister played an important role by lending me an ear."

Her elder sister also helps in taking care of their parents, but is not the main caregiver as she has her own family.

NOT A JOB

Caregiving is not a job you apply for, it's a task that just lands on your lap. But when you are 'sacked' from that job, you will realise that you are very blessed to have gone through the last lap with your loved ones.

MS CLEO CHIANG

Ms Chiang, who is single, has taken courses since last year and learnt skills such as managing family conflict and communicating effectively when it comes to caregiving.

One thing she learnt was how not to shoulder too much responsibility by herself all the time.

She said: "I always thought I had to take care of everything by myself but, after the courses, I came to understand that caregiving cannot be done alone and that it is okay to ask for help."

She believes that while younger caregivers might feel more inclined to search for caregiving information online, they should also engage with caregivers who have had more experience.

 
 

With her caregiving duties, Ms Chiang had to cut down on her leisure time, such as when she meets up with friends.

"I travel less now and when I have dinner with my friends, I tell them I have to go off by 9.30pm. They are understanding and would suggest meeting near my place so we can spend more time together."

Despite the occasional difficulties of the caregiving, she does not regret taking on this role.

She said: "Caregiving is not a job you apply for, it's a task that just lands on your lap. But when you are 'sacked' from that job, you will realise that you are very blessed to have gone through the last lap with your loved ones."

Lim Min Zhang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2017, with the headline 'A blessing to care for loved ones'. Print Edition | Subscribe