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Help is within reach

The Agency for Integrated Care offers caregivers a helping hand with resources such as training courses and respite care options

Caregiver Training Programme with Agency for Integrated Care
Ms Nur Hidayah Abidin has tapped caregiver training courses to provide better care for her older brother with bipolar disorder. PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) connects people to Community Care services. Besides linking people to care services and financial assistance, it also connects caregivers to information and support.

Find out how these two families have received timely help and support through its programmes.

My brother’s keeper

Ms Nur Hidayah Abidin was just five when her older brother, now 27, was diagnosed with an intellectual disability in primary school. At 16, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition characterised by episodes of extreme mood swings. After graduating from polytechnic, she decided to help her mother by taking over as his primary caregiver.

“There were times when my mother couldn’t articulate what was happening to my brother,” the 24-year-old explains.

Ms Hidayah soon realised that she had questions about the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for her brother. After discussions with her mother, she joined Caregivers Alliance Limited’s (CAL) Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) Training Programme in August 2015.

During the free 12-week course, she developed a better understanding of different mental health issues, including depression and mania — symptoms commonly associated with bipolar disorder. The course also honed her problem-solving and communication skills, while sharing coping strategies for caregivers.

Caregiver training

Caregiver Training Programme with Agency for Integrated Care
Ms Nur Hidayah Abidin (centre) shares her experiences with fellow caregivers. PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI

World Mental Health Day is observed on Oct 10 every year. It aims to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and the community support available to those with mental health issues.

Caregiving can be a long journey, and caregivers need to take care of their mental wellness to go the distance.

AIC works closely with Community Care partners to support caregivers in various ways. One way is through training, so that caregivers have the knowledge and skills needed to care for their loved ones.

Some programmes such as the CAL C2C training programme are free, but caregivers concerned about the training costs of other courses can also tap the Caregivers Training Grant (CTG) administered by AIC. The annual $200 grant can be used for approved training courses found on AIC’s website (www.aic.sg).

There are currently over 200 caregiver training courses conducted by more than 60 training providers under the grant. These courses equip caregivers with techniques and tips to care for a loved one, including personal care for seniors, training for specific conditions such as dementia, as well as communication skills and self-care.

Caring for caregivers

Caregivers are human, too, and many emotions surface during the process of providing care.

To receive emotional support, caregivers can join support networks set up by hospitals, specialist centres and organisations such as CAL. These groups provide a safe environment for caregivers to come together, share their experiences, lean on each other, and support each other.

“Caregiving is a long-term commitment. It’s important to care for yourself while you are caring for others too,” says Ms Hidayah.

“For me, it’s about ‘emptying your bottle’ or having someone that you can confide in. Attending caregiving courses provides you with a support group, which is important as it reminds you that you are not alone.”

Finding short-term relief

Respite care services with the Agency for Integrated Care
(From right) Mr Soh Puay Chiat and his 93-year-old father have tapped into respite care services. PHOTO: TED CHEN

Sometimes, caregivers may need some time off from caregiving to run errands or simply take a break. Respite care helps them to do so.

There are two forms of respite care that caregivers can tap: respite care at centres and at nursing homes. The first option provides care for a few hours a day and is offered by more than 20 eldercare centres in Singapore. Care recipients who require around-the-clock care can be enrolled in nursing home respite care, the second option. This form of respite care provides stay-in services for a period of seven to 30 days.

Close to 2,800 clients have benefitted from respite care at senior care centres and nursing homes as of June. In April this year, AIC rolled out a pre-enrolment programme, Go Respite, as part of the Caregiver Support Action Plan, developed by the Ministry of Health to strengthen support for caregiving.

With Go Respite, caregivers can plan ahead, identify a suitable respite option, pre-enrol their loved ones and complete some administrative work in advance. When they need a break or require assistance, they will be able to make use of respite care much quicker, compared to the previous four weeks it would take to register their loved ones without Go Respite.

Go Respite

Mr Soh Puay Chiat, 59, was one of the first few beneficiaries of Go Respite. In the same month that the programme launched, he was able to pre-enrol his father at Yong En Care Centre.

His 93-year-old father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about six years ago, and has been living alone with a domestic helper since Mr Soh’s mother passed away two years ago.

When their domestic helper decided to return to Indonesia for three weeks in May, Mr Soh was stumped. As the owner of a printing business, he was unable to tend to him during working hours.

Respite care services with the Agency for Integrated Care
Mr Soh Puay Chiat's father (left) was diagnosed with Alzeimer's disease about six years ago. PHOTO: TED CHEN

“Twenty-one days of caregiving is a little difficult because we are all working. That’s when I started to search for alternative options so that someone could look after my dad during office hours,” he says.

“I contacted AIC and they recommended that I sign up for the Go Respite programme. By the next month, I was able to send my father to Yong En Care Centre daily for that period. Their service suited my father and provided him with meals, games and social activities. I will consider respite care again if the need arises.”