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Caregiving in a time of COVID-19

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Caregiving in a time of COVID-19

Dover Park Hospice Medical Social Worker Michelle Lau and Music Therapist Camellia Soon talk about the Hospice’s new initiative DPHCares, which aims to support caregivers virtually during the pandemic with stress-relieving tips.

What are the stressors to caregivers brought about by COVID-19?
The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional layers of stressors in terms of social isolation and complexity in navigating resources for caregivers of terminally ill patients. On top of their overwhelming caregiving duties, caregivers find the COVID-19 restrictions challenging as they could not gather in support groups like they used to in the past and this contributes to a sense of loneliness on their caregiving journey.

Often, caregivers also face issues such as dedicating personal time to take care of their own well-being as they adjust to the demands of caregiving. This contributes to a more sedentary lifestyle, lack of self-care and having insufficient rest. Caregivers are also more socially isolated due to the inability to go out and socialise as a result of looking after their loved ones. This further worsens their mental well-being which could lead to caregiver burnout.

What is DPHCares?
Started in June 2021, DPHCares is a caregiver support initiative by the Dover Park Hospice Social Work and Psychosocial Services team that aims to provide caregivers of end-of-life patients a safe and therapeutic space to share their experiences, challenges and inspiration stories on their caregiving journey. It comprises Personalised Comfort Care Kits, DPHCares Telegram Support Group and Caregivers Bulletin Board. This multi-modality space helps to facilitate caregivers in expressing their emotions, discover a sense of belonging on their caregiving journey and enhance their coping methods in caregiving.

How does it benefit the caregivers?
DPHCares utilises the messaging platform Telegram to empower caregivers with caregiving and self-care tips on a weekly basis. A DPHCares bulletin board with psycho-educational materials is placed in the Hospice’s visitor waiting area for caregivers to read when they are waiting to enter the wards to visit their loved ones. It also serves as a two-way communication channel for caregivers who may not be technologically savvy to share their thoughts on Post-it notes on the board. Caregivers of our patients will also receive a personalised comfort care kit from their social worker. The kit includes donation in-kind essential items such as eye masks, sanitisers and other self-care items, which serves as a reminder for caregivers to take care and have time for themselves.

Everyday Stress Busters 

No time to exercise?
Try standing up whenever you can, even while watching TV or folding laundry. Use common household items as weights. You can swing a water bottle or carry a backpack of books.

Take a break or rejuvenate with your favourite food
Set aside time to indulge in your favourite food or drink, or add some spices or seasoning to your food for extra flavour!

Food can nourish your mind and body, while providing you with the energy needed for the next thing you do.

Be in touch with your senses
Observe things around you such as clouds, plants, a picture, or even other people. Notice the scents and smells around you — the aroma of coffee, the scent of your food, and the fragrance of fresh flowers.

Relax with music
Listening to calming music can help to reduce stress levels, while listening to upbeat tunes can lift your mood while you do your chores. What music suits you today?

Reflect while on the go
When taking a break, consider reading some articles and subsequently, taking a moment to pause and reflect between your errands.

Connect with a friend for five minutes
Catch up with an old friend, join an online support or religious group, or simply have a casual chat with
a neighbour.

Caregivers also face issues such as dedicating personal time to take care of their own well-being as they adjust to the demands of caregiving.

Dover Park Hospice Perspective

Head of Social Work and Psychosocial Services Martha Ng shared, “The caregiving journey is one that is shrouded with various challenges and can be very demanding and stressful. Many caregivers often face issues relating to the lack of self-care as they adjust to the demands of caregiving. These stressors unfortunately have been exacerbated by the current pandemic — caregivers are more socially isolated and are faced with more uncertainties and fears. As such, it is even more pertinent to provide more support for the caregivers to empower them in providing care for their loved ones.”

Reflection from a caregiver

“There are times when we don’t feel okay too. The fear, despair and feeling of hopelessness because you think that you are not doing enough or well enough for your loved one. And that is when it is most crucial to realise that your loved one is not alone, because you are there to help; and you are not alone, because there are other caregivers who are in this with you. This thought afforded me much relief and confidence, even in the darkest of times — and I pray that it gives you comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Thank you Dover Park Hospice for helping to make it all better.”
– Mr Victor, caregiver of a patient with advanced dementia

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