While caregivers have received more support in recent years, experts in the social service sector say more needs to be done.
Two recent tragic cases highlight the issues that confront caregivers.
Last month, Mr Tang Soh Ha, 70, was found dead at the foot of Block 560, Pasir Ris Street 51, after falling from the eighth storey.
He had been the main caregiver for his daughter Hui Yee, 27, a client of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds).
She was found dead in their flat with stab wounds. Police investigations are ongoing.
This incident occurred just over a year after a mother of two, suffering from depression and exhaustion, was jailed for five years for killing her seven-year-old son, who had autism. She had pushed him out of their ninth-storey kitchen window in Tampines.
"Often, caregivers neglect their own well-being in the course of looking after their loved ones 24/7, and run the risk of suffering caregivers' burnout," said Ms Anita Ho, assistant director of AWWA Caregiver Service, which helps caregivers of the elderly, people with disabilities, and those with chronic or terminal illnesses.
"Hence, it is important to support caregivers to address their physical, psycho-social and financial needs, and to stress the importance of self-care in caregivers," she said.
Such initiatives now include helplines, support groups, training workshops and respite care services (see sidebar).
DANGER OF BURNOUT
Often, caregivers neglect their own well-being in the course of looking after their loved ones 24/7, and run the risk of suffering caregivers' burnout.
MS ANITA HO, assistant director of AWWA Caregiver Service.
The burden on caregivers is set to rise with Singapore's ageing population, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said last Saturday at a conference on caregiving. One in seven Singaporeans is 65 or older now, and the figure is expected to rise to one in four by 2030.
AWWA CAREGIVER SERVICE
For caregivers of disadvantaged people, such as the elderly and people with disabilities
CONTACT: 1800-2992-992 (9am-6pm, weekdays)
Caregivers can download a resource handbook in English and Chinese at www.awwa.org.sg/our- services/family-caregiver- support/caregiver-service/
TOUCH CAREGIVERS SUPPORT
For caregivers of elderly people
CONTACT: 6804-6555 (9am-5pm, weekdays)
MINDS CAREGIVERS SUPPORT SERVICES
• By Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore
• For caregivers of people with special needs
CONTACT: 6547-8503 (8.30am-5.30pm, weekdays)
For caregivers of people with mental illness
CONTACT: 6782-9371 (24-hour helpline run by Caregivers' Association of the Mentally Ill)
For caregivers of chronically ill children
CONTACT: 6377-1789 (9am-5pm, weekdays)
OTHER USEFUL LINKS
Experts tell The Straits Times that, besides meeting the beneficiaries' needs, charities need to support the caregivers. And the wider community needs to get involved too.
"When a child suffers from chronic illnesses, his family is no less affected," said a spokesman for Club Rainbow, which supports families of chronically ill children.
Said manager Kelvin Lee at Touch Caregivers Support, which helps caregivers of the elderly: "We believe in providing holistic and integrated services to enable seniors to enjoy higher-quality care as they age at home.
"This means working together with caregivers to explore practical solutions, tap community resources, and address issues to alleviate caregiver stress...
"With caregivers' needs met, they are then in a better position to provide suitable care."
Caregivers can suffer from physical stress. For instance, parents caring for their children who are growing up are getting older too and can become frail, so they might find it hard to carry their charges. Emotional stress can come from feeling isolated or having to deal with family tensions or financial issues.
Ms Sandra Tan, assistant director of AWWA Caregiver Service (Disability), said "caregiver well-being has an impact on quality of care for the care recipient".
But caring for caregivers is not something charities can do alone, noted Ms Tan and Mr Lee.
"We are spearheading the engagement of neighbours to help alleviate caregiver stress," said Mr Lee.
IT professional Desmond Tan, 38, who has a seven-year-old son with cerebral palsy, said respite care services from AWWA have helped. But these support services cannot shield them from the public gaze.
"A person could be disabled because of the person himself, but also because of the society that stigmatises him. Caregivers can get support in taking care of people, but social stigma is beyond their control," said Mr Tan.