Caregivers get a breather to avoid burnout

Respite Care prog

For families struggling to care for a sick relative, every day can be a challenge.

If there is nobody around to help, it can be even tougher.

Now, a new pilot scheme has been set up to give caregivers a breather by letting them leave their loved ones at a nursing home for up to 30 days.

The programme aims to ease the burden on family members who are at risk of burning out.

It could also allow overworked maids some much-needed time off to go home and see their families.

In Madam Thor Saw Kim’s case, the scheme meant having someone to look after her dementia-stricken husband while she spent a few days in hospital following a cataract operation.

The 73-year-old is the main caregiver for her ailing spouse, cooking his meals, bathing him and calming him if he gets anxious. She does not have children and there were no family members she could turn to for help while she was away.

So it came as a relief when her husband, 72-year-old Sng Poh Leong, was signed up for the Nursing Home Respite Care programme.

He is one of eight people – most aged between 57 and 89 – who have enrolled on the scheme since its launch in May.

More than 40 others have inquired about the pilot, which is run by the Agency for Integrated Care. “Caregiving can be complex, affecting caregivers in terms of physical and emotional health, as well as stress, as they juggle between commitments and lifestyle arrangements,” said the agency’s chief care transition officer, Dr Wong Loong Mun.

“Some downplay their own needs compared to their loved ones’ to the point that they experience burnout.

“And this is where we hope the respite care programme can offer some temporary and welcome relief to caregivers.”

At the moment, 14 nursing homes are taking part in the scheme.

The homes make use of the two to three vacant beds that are usually available while they wait for a new patient to arrive.

Madam Thor’s husband is staying at Peacehaven Nursing Home at Changi for a month, while she recuperates at her flat in Commonwealth.

While his physical needs are being met, he has not quite adjusted to life at the nursing home.

Every day, he calls his wife to ask when he can go home, and tells her he cannot sleep because he misses her voice.

But although the 90-minute commute means she is not able to visit him as much as she would like, Madam Thor feels reassured that he is being looked after.

She can even see the funny side of the situation.

“I also don’t have to worry about him burning down the house,” she quipped.

Jul 06, 2013
The Straits Times
By Melissa Pang

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