Lydia and her sister, Sarah (not her real name) have always had a close relationship. In December 2019, Sarah started to isolate herself. Her speech became incoherent, and she often jumped from one conversation topic to another. She would tell Lydia about the swirling numbers on the clock and that colours look weird, and scream when she heard sounds.
The sisters argued over Sarah's bizarre behaviour as Lydia was unable to comprehend the changes in Sarah. She almost felt like she had lost her sister.
The following year, Sarah became increasingly violent in her behaviour and speech. She would leave food around the house, saying it was poisonous and accusing the family of trying to harm her. The family decided to seek medical advice and discovered that Sarah had a mental health condition.
The family was referred to National University Hospital (NUH). There, Lydia’s mother was advised to join Caregivers Alliance Limited’s (CAL) 12-week Caregivers-to-Caregivers Training Programme for Persons with Mental Health Issues (C2C-PMHI). Coincidentally, Lydia received an email from her school on CAL’s C2C Programme for Young Caregivers (C2C-YCG). Hoping to better care for her sister, she registered for the course.
Through C2C-YCG, Lydia overcame her fear of her sister as she learnt more about mental illness and Sarah’s condition. She was able to approach her sister with more understanding and patience. She also learned about self-care and caregiver burnout. Mother and daughter supported each other and shared their observations and suggestions about how to help Sarah. The family stood by one another during this time and covered for each other when they felt fatigued.
Today, Lydia volunteers with CAL as a Trainer, co-facilitating C2C-YCG with CAL staff and sharing her experience and knowledge with other youths who may be facing similar situations.
Lydia is more than a sister. She is a caregiver - are you one too?