The joys and struggles of caregiving

The joys and struggles of caregiving

Caption: Mr Ng has learnt to give back to the community

“It’s good to listen to the advice of other people. They tend to be calmer. I would have panicked more if I did not know about TOUCH."

Three years ago, Mr Ng Chor Kwang, 53, was suddenly thrown into the caregiving world when his mother, Mdm Kwa Mei Lee, then 76, suffered a major stroke that left her bedridden and unable to speak.

As the third of four children, Mr Ng was then working as a property agent, and was living alone with his mother. His father, who suffered from cancer, had passed on in 2013.

“I panicked when it happened. It was so unexpected. We were all shocked. My mother did not have any health issues. She led an active life and was one of TOUCH’s befrienders. Her friends and her would also deliver bread to needy residents,” said Mr Ng.

Caption: Mdm Kwa (first from left) together with AMK resident volunteers delivering bread in the neighbourhood

Throughout Mdm Kwa’s seven-month stay in the hospital, Mr Ng was there by her bedside, only returning home to sleep at night. It was tough as he had to quit his job and learn how to take care of his mother, including cleaning, changing her diapers, and using a suction to remove phlegm from her mouth.

“At that point, I felt helpless. I was worried I could not cope. How it’s like in a hospital and at home is different. I am on my own at home,” Mr Ng added.

Caption: Mdm Kwa (first row second from right) bonding with fellow befrienders and befriendees at TOUCHpointAMK 433

You are never alone
Thankfully, Mr Ng found support from friendships formed over the years with TOUCH staff and the residents from TOUCHpoint@AMK 433. His siblings also visited Mdm Kwa regularly and chipped in to help during the weekends so he could rest.

The TOUCH team also shared with Mr Ng about home care services. He felt more assured to have TOUCH’s nurse attend to Mdm Kwa’s needs after she was discharged from the hospital. Together with the occupational therapist, the domestic helper was trained to provide proper care to Mdm Kwa. However, Mr Ng continued to be the primary caregiver, constantly checking on his mother, observing her moods, expressions and vital signs. For example, when Mdm Kwa could not sleep at night or had persistent diarrhea, he would troubleshoot to find workable solutions. He diligently kept a journal to record these observations.

Building resilience, finding peace
Overtime, with support from the community, Mr Ng found his own coping strategies to daily challenges.

Caption: Mr Ng caring for Mdm Kwa at home

Mr Ng was also introduced to TOUCH’s Facebook Support Group Caregivers for Elderly, a safe and comfortable environment for caregivers to share stories, challenges, and exchange tips and information. He readily offers suggestions and seeks advice from other caregivers.  

“It’s good to listen to the advice of other people. They tend to be calmer. I would have panicked more if I did not know about TOUCH,” said Mr Ng.

When asked about his most joyful caregiving moments, he said, “I feel so happy to see the sparkle in my mom’s eyes when I cut her hair. It’s a privilege for me to make her feel more comfortable,” Mr Ng added.

When Mdm Kwa passed on early this year, Mr Ng continued to reach out to caregivers to offer support. Mr Ng has since taken part in caregiver-related focus groups and keeps in touch with other caregivers via WhatsApp.

Caption: TOUCH Care Line – a helpline for caregivers

Moving forward, he intends to volunteer with TOUCH Caregivers Support as a Care Coordinator for Care Line, a helpline for caregivers to alleviate caregivers’ stress. He has also continued to volunteer with TOUCH’s Meals-On-Wheels programme.

For enquiries on elderly and caregiver-related matters, please call TOUCH Care Line at 6804 6555.