Do you know a female caregiver?
Global statistics show that caregivers are largely women. Women make up 60 percent of the caregivers in Singapore. Of this statistic, most are middle-aged, between 45 and 59 years. The majority of them are married.
A recent survey found that women in dual-income households were five times more likely than men to be managing housework and caregiving responsibilities. Such additional caregiving responsibility is one of the hindrances to women's work and careers, as caregivers have to make many significant sacrifices. Women were also nearly four times more likely to have left their jobs due to their caregiving roles than men.
The female caregivers mentioned in the statistics above may very well be someone you know. She may be your mother, grandmother, auntie, colleague, or friend. It is challenging to be a caregiver and she would appreciate your support.
In today’s context, it is important to expand the network of care to ensure that there is someone else who is able to provide care other than the women at home. It is urgent to recognise that women should not be providing care in isolation.
“Caregiving is Universal. There are four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who will be caregivers, those who are currently caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” – Mrs Rosalyn Carter, the former first lady of the United States
How can you care for the female caregivers in your life and provide support as their family or friend?
TOUCH Caregivers Support shares some tips on how to LOVE the caregivers around you.
You can help them to laugh about something everyday
The saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine”. Humour draws people together, boosts mood, lightens burdens, and diminishes pain and stress. It is recommended that a belly laugh is one of the ways to help our body to move through and complete the stress cycle3.
Do a fun dance together, share a recent joke, an interesting experience, or a funny video with them. It will help to ease any anxiety or tension they may be experiencing. It will be wonderful if it can be done with the person they are caring for so that they can take the opportunity to create fun and joyful memories together.
Offer the gift of your time
One of the most practical ways to express your love is to offer ways to free up some of their time as well as to give them some alone time. Visit them regularly to build your confidence in helping out as a secondary caregiver. This will increase their confidence in you too – providing them assurance that you could help out with caregiving for a couple of hours.
You may offer to help with some coordination tasks, e.g. arranging for medical appointments, googling for more information from credible sources and calling up hotlines such as the TOUCH Care Line for more information and resources about what could be helpful to support the family.
Showing you care through your actions, words of affirmations and gift of time or presents, such as buying them a meal, can help them build social connections, as loneliness and isolation are one of the many issues faced by caregivers.
Visualise a future together
Visualise how it will be in five years' time as they continue to be a caregiver. What are the possibilities and aspirations they wish to have? While they may be burdened by the heavy responsibilities of care right now, take time to inspire hope into their long-drawn journey. Hear their stories and aspirations over a coffee or meal. By doing so, you are reminding them that they matter too.
“There is a person beyond the role of a caregiver.” With this reminder, it may begin to bring more clarity to consider the resources they currently have, resources they will need, and who else can be invited to join in this caregiving journey.
Encourage the building of a community
As you offer to spend more time with them, do also find ways in which you could seek help or ideas from them. Sounds counter-intuitive? You are in fact offering them an opportunity to help you too.
Let’s encourage one another to embrace this mindset of inter-reliance over independence – where it is ok to receive help and have the confidence that we have the capacity to offer help.
As a common saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Let’s extend this village to also care for our loved ones so that we can work together towards the future we visualised, while managing today’s uncertainties.
In times of uncertainties, we need to strengthen our circle of care through a combination of receiving formal services, and involving family, friends, and even neighbours. When a crisis happens, our neighbours are the nearest ones who can provide us with the support we need.
So, take time to get to know your neighbours and their neighbours when you visit.
Let us begin to envelope our female caregivers with LOVE, one conversation at a time!
TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) was set up to help caregivers for older people cope with the challenges of caregiving. TCG also works closely with TOUCH Home Care’s (THC) trans-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and care coordinators to offer a suite of home-based care and support services. TCG provides a one-stop service for home modifications to create a safer home environment for the elderly and their caregivers. Caregivers may call the TOUCH Care Line at 6804 6555. TCG’s Care Line operates from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (excluding Public Holidays and eve of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year), for enquiries on elderly or caregiver-related issues. A Caregivers Support Group (Singapore) was also set up on Facebook to build a safe online environment to provide peer support and information exchange (https://www.facebook.com/groups/CaregiversSupportGroupSG). Caregivers can log onto www.touch.org.sg/caregivers for caregiver-related support and services.