Caring for his intellectually disabled son and a mother with dementia was so stressful for Mr Liew Chong Pow that he suffered heart problems while his wife was left on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
Five years ago, their then 26-year-old son Jonathan had to return home to be looked after full-time after he began beating up his peers at a sheltered workshop.
This arrangement was especially trying because he hoarded things, had an obsession with the telephone and used a chair to bang on the door every night. "It came to a point when everyone was shouting at one another every day; but I am not one to shout, so all this just built up in me," said Mr Liew, 60.
To give more support to caregivers like Mr Liew, the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) yesterday opened a new facility in Jalan Ubi. The two-storey building at the Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub will house a dedicated Caregivers Support Services Centre and Minds' largest day activity centre.
Parents and relatives can use the centre's respite care services if they need a break. Counselling, support group sessions and referral services are also provided.
"There is no need for you to struggle alone; so take time to bond with other caregivers," Minds president Jeffrey Tan urged caregivers at the launch. "Share your stories of the challenges you have been through and the obstacles that you have overcome and be inspired."
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who launched the centre, said it is aimed at meeting the financial, social, emotional and training needs of caregivers. Minds currently serves 2,300 beneficiaries.
"Caregivers experience fatigue, stress and burnout, so providing the community support is particularly critical," said Mr Tan.
The new day activity centre, which equips those with intellectual disabilities with daily living skills such as personal grooming and hygiene, can take up to 100 clients.
While Minds already has four day activity centres , the waiting list for a place can stretch up to two years.
Jonathan, for instance, had to wait 11/2 years before he could spend time there.
To meet the demand, Minds plans to open two more centres in Jurong East and Clementi in the next two years.
The Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub, which houses several other voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), was built by the Ministry of Social and Family Development last year. With several VWOs clustered in a common space, the idea is that resources can be shared and collaborations formed.