A senior staff nurse shares encounters of courageous caregivers who kept on going even as the going got rough.
I have been a senior staff nurse at Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) Hospice Care Service for nine amazing years, during which I’ve seen how wonderful caregivers are in caring for their loved ones impacted by cancer. A full-time housewife managing three schooling kids while caring for her sick husband; a 16-year-old daughter who quits school to care for her sick mother; and a husband who stopped working to care for his wife with multiple cancers for many years — the list goes on.
The caregivers are always grateful whenever I visit them to help manage the pain symptoms of the patients. I disagree with some who often say that our work is not easy. Being a caregiver 24/7 is significantly more tedious than being a nurse who makes short visits lasting a couple of hours at a time.
I have wondered many times how the caregivers manage this and these are the few words that come to mind: love, gratitude, respect.
My experience over the years meeting some caregivers has shown me how the power of love can manifest in different ways. It keeps one persevering no matter the circumstances.
Caregivers often tell me: “My wife needs me most now”, “He has been a good husband to me”, “I would do anything for my mother”.
Being there for their loved ones is what keeps them strong. Seeing their loved ones getting better quality of life for as long as possible is what gives them courage. The smile on the faces of their loved ones give them the hope to continue despite the challenges they face. It is definitely not an easy journey for caregivers, especially when some patients are symptomatic and require the attention of their caregivers all the time.
Some of the complaints that the caregivers have are lack of sleep, no appetite or just exhaustion. I would always encourage them to take turns caring for the patient with other family members to ensure that they get adequate rest and recuperate. This will prevent burnout for the caregivers.
The SCS Hospice Care team facilitates online applications through the Agency for Integrated Care portal. For families who face financial concerns and are not able to engage a private nurse to relieve caregivers, they can tap on the SCS Living Well Fund that helps needy families in providing end-of-life care. SCS‘ medical social workers will identify cases that are eligible for the Living Well Fund, and apply for other financial aids to assist family members.
Caregivers who lack family support may engage a home personal caregiver or home-based respite caregivers.
This service relieves caregivers for anywhere from one hour to 10 hours a day.
Support from the family and peers are even more important for a caregiver. The responsibility that comes with caring for sick ones may pose limits to a caregiver‘s social life. Therefore it is also crucial for relatives, friends and even colleagues to offer help in times of need. Even a phone call from friends provides an outlet for caregivers to relieve their stress.
My experience over the years meeting some caregivers has shown me how the power of love can manifest in different ways. It keeps one persevering no matter the circumstances. That has been the motivation for me to continue in this role. What an unbelievable journey it has proven to be!