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G I There are two main types of caregivers – the formal and the informal. Formal caregivers are typically paid providers but they may also be volunteers from a government or nonprofit organization whereas informal caregivers can be friends or family members who are caring

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for the needs of another adult or a child.

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Currently, there are approximately 220,000 caregivers in Singapore looking after seniors, the disabled, the mentally and terminally ill and children with special needs. This number is expected to increase exponentially, especially in light of Singapore’s ageing population as well as in high life expectancy rates. In year 2030, the numbers will rise to an alarming figure of approximately 873,000 Singaporeans who will be potential caregivers. It could be you or me.


CARE GIVING IS UNIVERSAL There are only four kinds of people in the world – Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.


Anyone can become a caregiver at any

There are also situations that throw us

point in their life.

into a state of shock and a frenzy of learning how to take charge immediately.

Often, people see the act of caregiving

People call it “The Call”. It may be a call

as the expected duties of parents,

about Dad taking a fall, or a stroke, or a

spouses, adult children or other family

cardiac arrest. It may be a call about Mom

members. It is almost seen as a natural

running the red light and hitting somebody

process that as our parents age, the

but she doesn’t remember how it

odds increase that we will be called

happened. “The Call” is one that changes

upon to be a caregiver.

your life, diverting all your energy to an entirely different priority. You become a caregiver instantly.


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You may need to care for your parents, spouse or ageing loved one– but that day always seems so far away. However, it may come sooner than you think. We all arrive at the point of caring for another from different directions

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and handle the challenges in our own unique ways.

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Once we become caregivers we realize there are no formal instructions on how to deal with this new role. It’s unfamiliar territory and can feel very intimidating, especially when we didn’t sign on for the task at hand.

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We all know the day will come when we have to step in and deal with the demise of a parent, a spouse, a sibling or another loved one. There is no escaping this aspect of life but yet no one wants to talk about it.

As adult children, we seem to find it difficult to press our parents to talk about their twilight years and end-of-life issues. However, dealing with these issues before crisis hits, while our loved ones are still able to provide us with answers, can make this difficult life event so much easier to manage.


WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN AND WHEN DID IT STOP THAT WE WERE NOT ABLE TO FIGURE THINGS OUT FOR OURSELVES?


ON AVERAGE, CAREGIVERS PROVIDE 6.8 HOURS OF CARE PER DAY IN A TYPICAL WEEK

HOUSE KEEPING

MEALTIME

BATHING & TOILETING

Ensure house and

Meal planning and

Cleanliness and

living conditions

preparation for

hygiene; checking

remain sanitary

specific diet; cooking

if there are any

and functional

and feeding

unusual changes


MEDICATION

RUNNING ERRANDS

Reminding, sorting,

Picking up

dispensing, and

prescriptions,

trips to doctors’

grocery shopping,

appointments

laundry etc


Beyond the actual work and chores of caregiving – personal needs, errands and administrative tasks, caregivers are fulfilling a companionship role.


Although surely for many caregivers their efforts are a labour of love but this doesn't mean that there aren't negative ramifications on their own personal and work lives.

Ultimately, caregivers need

time.


YOU AND ME, WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM PROFESSIONALS WHO CARE. WE DON'T HAVE MEDICAL DEGREES BEHIND OUR NAMES THAT ALLOW US TO CARE WITH CERTAINTY.


When our care meets our love for

There will be times when we find

someone, we can’t help but feel

ourselves using our lunch hour or leaving

unprepared. Caring for someone you love

work early to run errands for our loved

doesn’t have visiting hours. It is a twenty

ones. Some of us may end up giving up a

four seven labour of love. It doesn’t take

promotion because it would mean longer

holidays and it works on the weekends.

hours we don’t have. There will be days where we spend more time tending to

It can’t be quarantined to a hospital room

mom’s prescriptions more than our own.

or rehabilitation center. It’s in your home. It’s everywhere. It’s on your mind when

Family caregiving often happens while we

you’re sitting next to your loved one and

are in the prime of our working life. It’s

it’s in your head when you’re miles away

demands can take its toll on our jobs, our

on a business trip.

families and our health.


You are expected to be many things at one time


PERSONAL ASSISTANT

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Help your care recipient with his or her physical needs. Assist them in tasks they are unable to do themselves. Run errands.

CARE MANAGER Monitor your care recipient’s health. Constantly keep care recipient’s health status in check. Be on stand-by twenty four seven.

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ADVOCATE

Make decisions regarding your care recipient’s medical needs. Communicate with the doctor to make important healthcare decisions.

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Gather information regarding your care recipient’s current condition. Speak with the doctor about your care recipient's diagnosis and know what you can expect in the future. Spend time conducting your own research.

FRIEND Understand your care recipient’s emotional needs. Know what they are going through and be a source of encouragement and support through tough times.

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RESEARCHER

FINANCIAL PLANNER

Manage your care recipient’s financial needs. Caregiving responsibilities takes a toll on family finances. Look ahead and plan for the future.


TIME TO WORRY


We all know that caregiving is inevitable. Our parents will grow old and the day will come when we have to take care of them. We avoid thinking about topics like this. We don't want to think about it, so we satisfy ourselves with a thin layer of general information.

It’s easy to put off these

When worry or other

conversations because it’s

draining emotions begin

hard to accept them. Plus,

to consume your thoughts,

we’re busy. It never seems

acknowledge it and then

like the right time to bring

commit that you will give it

up what we think will likely

your full attention.

be a difficult topic. Take the most bothersome issues and begin to think about active, small steps, to address them.


Even if you are not expecting to care for someone anytime soon, it would be a wise decision to start preparing now to be a caregiver so you can be ready when the time does come. The journey of a caregiver can sometimes begin unexpectedly and tumultuously, particularly in the sudden onset of illness of the care recipient, giving little time for the caregiver to prepare for the caregiving role.


Don’t wait for a crisis to start

Update yourself on legal or

getting organised. There are a lot

financial issues, end of life

of things you can do to make the

issues, home maintenance tips

caregiving process easier for

and how to care for people with

both you and your loved one.

physical or mental disabilities.

Being a caregiver doesn’t come with an instruction manual but that doesn’t mean you have to go through nursing school to learn how to be a caregiver.


IT'S NOT ABOUT GETTING RID OF THE BURDEN;


Time, or our experience of time, is not created equal. People in the midst of grief (and mental exhaustion) have a different relationship with time than most others.

IT'S ABOUT FINDING A WAY TO LESSEN IT'S WEIGHT ON YOU AND YOUR LIFE Experiencing caregiver burnout is not a matter of if, simply a matter of when. But we can reduce the intensity of caregiver burnout if we allow ourselves the luxury of looking forward. I’m not talking about looking forward in the way other people look forward to vacations or travels around the world. No, our looking forward has to be different even though it serves a similar purpose—helping us through the rough patches of the every day when our bodies are exhausted, our hearts are heavy, and our will is seemingly depleted.


QUICK WAY TO GET STARTED

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ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR WORRIES AND FEARS We all have many worries and strong emotions. We always fear what is to come. Not only are these feelings only normal, but to be expected. Learn that something can be done about it and acknowledgement is always the first step.

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HAVE "THE TALK" No one likes to talk about things like that, but they are absolutely necessary. Have conversations about the what-ifs. Talk about values and preferences, wishes for health care or details of finances of your loved ones. If you wait until a fall, accident, or serious diagnosis, big decisions may be driven by assumptions.


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KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY RESOURCES You cannot be a caregiver all by yourself. You need to know what resources are available for any kind of assistance. A search on the internet is a good way to start. While other family members are likely sources of support, don’t overlook friends, colleagues and organizational affiliations.

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HANDLING FINANCES AND INSURANCES This is really important. There are too many households where one only person manages all the banking and insurance details. Know where all bank, retirement, and pension accounts are, how much money is in each, and all account numbers and passwords. Make a list of all insurances and how much payments are and always keep them up to date


As a caregiver, you know that care for another doesn't wait for the perfect moment, when we feel our best and are rested. Care happens when we least expect it. When we are exhausted. When we are busy and preoccupied and our schedules are full. What we know that most others don't is that care doesn't have the luxury of being postponed until we are 'ready.' Care knows no past or future tense--it is always unfolding in the moment.


THERE IS NO TIME FOR DENIAL


The world of caregiving is one with a wide range of obstacles – emotional and practical, predicatable and unpredictable.

Assess the amount of time you need to provide care right from the start. This will allow you to better allocate your time and manage your expectations.


THE TIME IS NOW


THE SECRET OF GETTING AHEAD IS GETTING STARTED


IMMINENT F UT U R E

This book is not an exhaustive guide but aims to provide some useful insight to those who may one day be a caregiver.


Time book (final)