The inaugural Singapore Patient Action Awards highlight the sacrifices and tough journey caregivers go through.
Seventy-four-year-old Heng-Chang Ye Veng was a dedicated caregiver to her late husband for nine years since he was diagnosed with dementia in 2007. To better care for her husband, she read widely on caregiving to persons with dementia and even picked up practical nursing skills to care for her husband who was battling with sleep apnoea and swallowing difficulties.
Even as she was coping with the bereavement of her husband, Heng agreed to share her caregiving experience at the recent Asian Medical Student Conference Workshop on dementia and caregiving. Today, she still actively participates in support groups and workshops to encourage and share with other caregivers on her caregiving experience. She was the award recipient of the 2015 Singapore Patient Caregiver Award (Individual) at the inaugural Singapore Patient Action Awards (SPAA), which was organised by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and given out during the annual Singapore Patient Conference.
Other award recipients included:
• Eighty-two-year-old Dincy Lim, who founded the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) Menopause Support Group in 1996, followed by the TTSH Colon Cancer Patient Support Group in 2004 at the age of 71.
• Fifty-seven-year-old Agnes Ann Marie Yee is caring for her mother who has dementia. She has also volunteered as a caregiving partner at the TTSH Centre for Geriatric Medicine where she shares her rich experiences on dementia from a caregiver’s perspective, allowing medical professionals to devise better solutions to help these patients with dementia.
• Fifty-four-year-old Associate Professor Albert Teo who initiated a touch therapy programme to provide massages to HIV/AIDS patients at the Communicable Disease Centre wards so as to relieve the joint stiffness and mobility. He is also a friend to these patients, often lending them a listening ear and attending their funerals when the time comes. He also provides counselling support to these patients, and has repeatedly gone out of his way to raise funds and help jobless patients secure employment so that they may live out their lives with dignity.
There were also group award recipients including Singapore Cancer Society’s New Voice Club, Colon Patient Cancer Support Group and Emerald Group (volunteers) from Dover Park Hospice.
Growing number of caregivers
Shared the guest-of-honour at the Singapore Patient Conference, Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister of State for Health, Ministry of Health, “Being a doctor and a Member of Parliament, I have met many caregivers from all walks of life who share with me their challenges in caring for their loved ones. The stress is physical, emotional and sometimes financial as well. Caregiving is indeed a complex and arduous journey, and a commendable sacrifice.”
He added that today, there are about 210,000 caregivers in Singapore and there are a number of initiatives to provide support to them. The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) has expanded on its touch-points to make care information more easily accessible to seniors and their caregivers, such as the Singapore Silver Pages portal, and the Singapore Silver Line, a national eldercare helpline.
He said that AIC has also collaborated with Regional Health Systems (RHS) to set up AICare Links at four restructured hospitals, with the AICare Link at Tan Tock Seng Hospital the newest addition.
“Many of you had asked for the ‘personal touch’ when seeking help. AICare Links in the hospitals will allow caregivers and their families to speak directly with Care Consultants to access information on care services, assistance schemes and grants. More than 12,000 patients have used AICare Link’s services to plan their post-discharge care options to-date,” Dr Lam shared.
He also addressed training support for caregivers. The Government introduced the Caregivers Training Grant in 2007 to support caregivers with up to S$200 each year to attend approved caregiver training courses. He said that since its inception, more than 29,000 have benefitted from the grant, and in 2014, more than 7,000 caregivers have tapped on this grant.
He ended his speech with a quote by Brett H Lewis, a renowned American author of the book on “Family Caregiving” – “Doctors diagnose, nurses heal and caregivers make sense of it all.”