“With the right education and knowledge, you can be empowered to provide caregiving for your loved ones too.” -- Shufen, a person in recovery, who now provides care for her aunt with dementia.
Shufen, 37 years old, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005. Through treatment and support from her family, she has been able to overcome the auditory and visual hallucinations, and is currently on a SG United Programme for a Diploma in Digital Programme. Apart from occasional mild symptoms, Shufen says she can now cope with daily life and remains optimistic about her rehabilitation process.
A decade into Shufen’s recovery journey however, fate struck another blow. The aunt who raised her was diagnosed with dementia. As it was no longer viable for her aunt to continue being a homemaker, the family decided to hire a domestic helper to manage the household chores.
“She could no longer cook and take care of us,” says Shufen, recounting her aunt’s early signs of dementia. “When the helper was cleaning the house, she always wanted to help out, so we let her do simple tasks like folding laundry. Sometimes, she would say that she wanted to go home, and we had to gently tell her that she was already at home.”
Shufen came across CAL’s Caregivers-To-Caregivers (C2C) Programme in 2016. She saw it as an opportunity to learn about caring for her aunt. By providing her with the necessary knowledge, Shufen felt empowered her to better manage and understand her aunt’s situation. The family has also learnt to work around her aunt’s dementia-related behaviour patterns by adjusting how they interact with one another.
“I definitely understand her condition better after going through the C2C Programme,” Shufen says. “She had become forgetful, but we would not blame her for that. We would always remind her not to mind too much about the past, especially bad and unhappy memories. I would take photos of her during significant moments like her birthday and Mother’s Day to help remind her of happy memories.”
The most important thing that Shufen has gained from the programme is knowing that there are professionals who can help when it comes to coping with these conditions. It brings her great comfort knowing that there is a community who understands persons with mental health issues and can provide caregivers with the support they need.
“There should not be stigma about people with mental health. They can deal with the condition and overcome it too,” Shufen said, citing her own experience.
In sharing her story, Shufen hopes to encourage others to sign-up for the C2C Programme, as “With the right education and knowledge, you can be empowered to provide caregiving for your loved ones too.”