SINGAPORE - More caregivers of people with dementia here are signing up for training, with the Caregivers Alliance seeing a more than threefold increase in sign-ups for its free dementia training course, from 178 in 2019 to 636 in 2021.
This comes with an increasing awareness of dementia, as well as mental health support available for those caring for people with dementia, said Ms Tricia Lee, head of communications at the non-profit organisation, which launched the course in 2019. The eight-week course is conducted over Zoom.
The number of young caregivers, aged between 15 and 35, who took the course for loved ones with dementia and mental health issues also grew from 31 in 2019 to 94 in 2021.
“Caring for someone with dementia is often a 24/7 job that can take a toll on the caregiver’s emotional, physical and mental well-being,” said Ms Lee.
One caregiver who attended the course this year is 41-year-old Imran Nizamullah Wee, who has been caring for his 83-year-old mother since he was released from prison in 2019. The delivery rider, who had served 12 years in jail for drug trafficking, said: “After coming out of prison, I wasn’t very happy that I had to take care of my mum.
“I was thinking I already missed out on so much. I wanted to pursue things, get a well-paying job, but now my plans had to be put on hold.”
Mr Wee, who got divorced earlier in 2022 and has no children, lives with his mother in a three-room flat in Bedok. She goes to a dementia daycare centre twice a week. Her husband died in 1984.
He said the flexibility of his work allows him to check in on his mother, who has moderate dementia. This stage of dementia sees increasing confusion and memory loss in the person.
Mr Wee recounted an incident in 2019, when his mother left the microwave on and went downstairs to meet her friends. When he came home to thick fumes, she told him it was haze. He later found the microwave burnt.
Ever since the incident, he has bought packed food for his mother.
He has to help her use the toilet, bathe and change into clean clothes frequently as she has incontinence and is unable to control her bladder.
“There are times I think: Is this my life? It’s a full-time job,” he said.
Mr Wee found relief being connected to other caregivers of people with dementia.
“Although everyone comes from different backgrounds like the corporate world – and I’m the only person in the group with the kind of background I have – we are all caregivers and could really understand what each other was going through,” he said.
“The empathy for each other was beautiful.”
He said the course taught him about dementia, so he was better able to understand his mother’s behaviour, when previously he would think she was testing his patience on purpose.
The course teaches caregivers about changes in the brain of someone with dementia, how to manage challenging situations, and ways to communicate with their loved ones to reduce conflict.
Mr Wee is now considering signing up as a volunteer trainer with the Caregivers Alliance.
“I think I’ve done enough wrongs in my life and this is a way to humble me and slow me down,” he said.
“When you’re the only person to look after a loved one, and when you are left with no choice, I think somehow it is a good thing. It brings out the best in you. I’m on the path to betterment.”
The Caregivers Alliance has trained more than 7,000 caregivers since it started in 2011. Caregivers can sign up for the course at https://str.sg/w9jK.
Caregivers can also attend other courses by St Luke’s ElderCare, which has opened an eldercare training academy offering more than 50 courses on dementia, and palliative and rehabilitation care. The charity operates 23 eldercare centres islandwide.
The academy was set up to strengthen the community care sector as one in four people will be over the age of 65 in 2030. It aims to train more than 3,000 caregivers and healthcare staff over the next two years.
This is in line with the Healthier SG initiative, which emphasises preventive care to keep people healthier.
The course for caregivers teaches them about biological, psychological and social changes in seniors. It also teaches exercises for seniors, as well as how to position and move them to prevent injuries.
Caregivers will also learn how to help seniors carry out activities of daily living and engage them in meaningful activities.
The course is conducted by trainers and senior physiotherapists at St Luke’s ElderCare.
The charity, which was appointed as a learning institute by the Agency for Integrated Care in 2018, has trained more than 1,200 front-line workers from more than 130 organisations across the sector.