Minds ramps up efforts to support caregivers

Participants of  the first Minds Caregivers Wellness Day playing games, organised to encourage caregivers to take time out for themselves.
Participants of the first Minds Caregivers Wellness Day playing games, organised to encourage caregivers to take time out for themselves. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Charity to pilot respite scheme, start support group for those with adult dependants

When Madam Sarojah Ayasamy was 11, her mother died and she dropped out of primary school to help care for her two intellectually disabled siblings.

She remembers her father asking her if this was truly what she wanted to do.

"He said: 'Do you really want to take care of your brother and sister? This is a very heavy duty,'" recalled Madam Sarojah, now 59.

She said she did not think twice as she felt that it was her responsibility. Even so, the intervening years have not been easy.

Her father died in 1990. Her sister, Madam Paggajam Ayasamy, is now 48 years old, but their brother, who was a year younger than Madam Sarojah, died several years ago in a car accident.

But despite the challenges in taking care of her siblings, Madam Sarojah said staff from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) have provided invaluable help.

She now works as a cleaner at the SIA-Minds Employment Development Centre in Margaret Drive, where her sister, Madam Paggajam, is undergoing vocational training.

They both attended the first Minds Caregivers Wellness Day yesterday at Our Tampines Hub.

ISOLATION

We have noticed that there are many caregivers who gravitate towards social isolation - not because they dislike accessing community resources but because they do not want or are unable to leave their special needs family member. It's important to also identify community activities suitable for their participation and have people accept them for who they are.

MS SALLY MAY TAN, chief executive of Minds, on caregivers not having enough time to socialise.

The event was organised to encourage caregivers to take time out for themselves, even as they care for their loved ones with special needs.

Ms Sally May Tan, chief executive of Minds, said: "We have noticed that there are many caregivers who gravitate towards social isolation - not because they dislike accessing community resources but because they do not want or are unable to leave their special needs family member.

"It's important to also identify community activities suitable for their participation and have people accept them for who they are."

Also present at the event was Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is also MP for Tampines GRC.

He announced that Minds will be rolling out a respite care programme, where trained volunteers can step in on behalf of caregivers for several hours each week.

During this time, said Mr Heng, the caregiver "takes a breather and attends to his or her own needs", which can help to relieve stress.

The pilot programme will be rolled out next month.

Minds has also set up a new support group for people caring for their adult siblings, who often face a unique set of challenges. Some of these caregivers may be caring for their aged parents or young children at the same time, Ms Tan said.

For Madam Sarojah, the time has finally come to focus on improving herself. In recent years, she has taken a basic English course and is now pursuing studies in customer service.

"Any small matter I have, Minds will help me," she said.

"They are like my family, I have no secrets from them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 02, 2018, with the headline 'Minds ramps up efforts to support caregivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe