Meet Singapore's 'Extraordinaire Caregivers'

Mr David Lang, Ms Janet Koh and Ms Naina Shah were recognised with the Extraordinaire Caregiver Award given by Silver Caregivers Co-operative Limited at their Caregivers Celebration Dinner on March 15, 2018.
Mr David Lang, Ms Janet Koh and Ms Naina Shah were recognised with the Extraordinaire Caregiver Award given by Silver Caregivers Co-operative Limited at their Caregivers Celebration Dinner on March 15, 2018.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - For almost three decades, Mr David Lang cared for his three special-needs children.

The 59-year-old bible teacher fended for his three children who suffered from Niemann-Pick disease type C, a rare metabolic disorder that causes their cognitive and physical functions to degenerate. Though born healthy, they became paralysed and required intensive care.

For his dedication, Mr Lang was one of the three people recognised with the Extraordinaire Caregiver Award given by Silver Caregivers Co-operative Limited (SCCL) at their Caregivers Celebration Dinner on Thursday (March 15).

SCCL is a social enterprise that hopes to better the quality of life of caregivers. It offers a range of products and services, including home health screening, workshops, and seminars to support caregivers.

Despite winning the award, Mr Lang insisted that he could not have done it alone. Caring for his children was a community effort, he said.

Mr Lang's children are bedridden, tube-fed, need assistance to breathe through tracheotomy tubes. They need care around the clock, he said, adding that he gets help from his wife and two caregivers.

"We need between $7,000 to $10,000 each month to care for my children," he said, adding that he would not be able to cope financially without the help of his church and the community.

When his son died at age 11 in 2005, Mr Lang and his wife picked up the pieces and continued caring for his children. "The caregiver journey goes on," he said.

Despite the challenges, Mr Lang said he is pressing on for the sake of his two other children, a daughter aged 26 and a son aged 21 now.

"Life is valuable. It's a gift from God," he said. "I feel joyful as long as I can see them smile."

The celebration dinner was graced by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, who applauded the dedication of caregivers.

"Caregivers need to work tirelessly and selflessly to provide the best care for their loved ones and those in need," she said.

"According to research, caregivers are at high risk of fatigue, and may lose their motivation to care due to the demands of their care giving roles. It is therefore, all the more important for us to give caregivers the support they need, and recognise their contributions to our society."

Ms Sim added that the demand for caregivers will increase in tandem with Singapore's ageing population.

Also winning the award was Ms Naina Shah, 61, a caregiver to her elderly parents. Ms Shah gave up on her small business in 2015 to care for her father who suffered from cancer, heart disease and stroke. He was bed-ridden for over a year.

After he died in 2017, Ms Shah became the main caregiver for her 80-year-old mother who has asthma, high blood pressure, depression and knee problems.

For Ms Shah, caregiving to her parents is something she is happy to shoulder.

"As parents, they have done so much for us. Now, it's our duty as children to do it."