Building strong connections

Building strong connections

Caption: Caregiver Carol at TOUCHpoint@AMK 433

 "I think it’s good for caregivers to talk about what they are going through and lend a listening ear to others in the same situation. The fact that we are from the same neighbourhood also helps us to get to know one another better."

When Carol Neo, 60, crossed paths with TOUCH two decades ago, little did she know that this initial connection would continue when she unexpectedly became a caregiver. She first came to know of TOUCH when her nephew with learning difficulties approached the organisation for help.

The retired education trainer had spent many years working around the world and settled abroad with her husband. However, three years ago, Carol had to return to Singapore to care for her frail parents who are in their 90s. They live in a four-room flat in Ang Mo Kio.

Carol’s mother, Mdm Tan Swee Choo, is a wheelchair user who has been on a feeding tube for three years. She also suffers from dementia.

Carol reconnected with TOUCH when her father, who was hospitalised two years ago, joined the Gym Tonic strength training programme at TOUCHpoint@AMK 433. She then befriended the team at CREST TOUCH @ Cheng San-Seletar who invited her to join Carers’ Circle, a caregivers’ support group set up in 2022.

Reconnecting with TOUCH
“I started noticing the activities at the centre when I went to pick up my father after his exercise sessions. So when I came to know of the caregivers support group, I was open to joining the sessions,” said Carol.

Together with six other caregivers, Carol receives emotional support, learns coping strategies, and is now more aware of the caregiving resources available in her community. They bond over exercise, sharing sessions, and other social activities.

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Caption: Carol (right) attending an arts session with fellow caregivers

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Caption: Carol (first from left) bonding with TOUCH CREST staff and caregivers at a Carers’ Circle planning session

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Caption: Carol (first from left) sharing useful items in care packs prepared for caregivers

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Caption: Carol conducting her first flower arrangement session for caregivers at TOUCHpoint@AMK 433

“After meeting other caregivers, I realised how fortunate I am. I have a helper who helps me with caregiving duties. As my mother suffers from recurrent Urinary Tract Infection, we have to check that she passes urine. I can imagine how hard it is for male caregivers to manage such tasks, especially sons,” added Carol.

It was a struggle for Carol as she had to juggle part-time work and her caregiving duties. “My job requires me to focus. It is hard to do that when you have other major responsibilities,” said Carol. “I knew my body was breaking down. If I can’t think clearly, I get cranky and it’s a vicious cycle. You just need to call for help at some point – and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.”

Finding hope in shared experiences
Through Carers’ Circle, Carol receives mutual support from fellow caregivers. Their caregiving experience has also made her pause and reflect on life. “Now, I can only ‘sayang’ my mother, and let her feel safe and secure. She still has feelings and awareness. So I need to be there for her. I think it’s good for caregivers to talk about what they are going through and lend a listening ear to others in the same situation. The fact that we are from the same neighbourhood also helps us to get to know one another better,” said Carol.

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Story published in 2023