Caption: Mdm Malliga with Ramesh at TCIL
65-year-old Mdm Malliga enjoys a close relationship with her son, Ramesh (45). However, their relationship was put to the test when Ramesh, who has mild intellectual disability, developed depression and anxiety in 2015, after Mdm Malliga's brother passed on.
“Ramesh used to be very independent. The death of my brother came as a huge shock to him as they were very close. Ramesh was worried that I would leave him suddenly too,” shares Mdm Malliga. She recalls that Ramesh had difficulties processing loss and managing his emotions, often having outbursts of anger and sadness.
It was a difficult period for Mdm Malliga, as Ramesh left his carwash job to stay home and recover. Due to his anxiety, Ramesh only wanted to be cared for by his mother. Mdm Malliga shares, “As the sole breadwinner of the family, I struggled to care for Ramesh as I had to juggle my full-time job that had long working hours. I was stressed, burnt out and had no one to turn to for help.”
It was not an easy decision for Mdm Malliga who eventually decided to leave her job of 10 years in 2020 to focus on Ramesh's recovery. She shares, “I love my son more than myself. I liked my job a lot but decided that it was a necessary sacrifice so that I can focus on helping Ramesh become happy again.”
Finding Newfound Hope
When Mdm Malliga found out about TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL), she was hopeful that Ramesh would get better. When Ramesh first joined TCIL, he struggled to settle in and refused to come regularly because of his anxiety. However, with the encouragement from his mother and coaches, Ramesh slowly adjusted to the new environment and started to enjoy activities at TCIL.
Kho Wai Leng, Ramesh's social worker from TCIL shares, “When Ramesh is introduced to something new, he can experience a lot of anxiety. We worked with him to complete simple tasks to build his confidence in achieving small successes to ease his anxiety.” Today, Ramesh has discovered his love for dancing and cooking, and looks forward to whipping up delicious meals and learning new dance moves at TCIL every week.
Caption: Ramesh learning how to prepare hotdog tomato pasta during his cooking class.
Ramesh is also fondly known as the big brother in his class. His coaches Mr Sua Heng Yeow and Ms Kelly Setoh share, “Ramesh has now become more confident. He leads by example and reminds his classmates to behave and do the right thing. He is enthusiastic about learning and participates eagerly.”
Caption: Ramesh and Mdm Malliga at TCIL's Family Day.
Mdm Malliga has always made time to be present for any TCIL activities with her son. Recently, their mother-son bond was strengthened at TCIL's Family Day, where they discovered more about one another and committed to three key values to uphold together as a family unit.
A Safe Space for Rest and Respite
As Ramesh's sole caregiver, Mdm Malliga's caregiving journey has often been a lonely one. Earlier this year, she was invited to join caregiver interest activities organised by TCIL to create a safe space for caregivers to share their struggles and receive support.
Caption: Mdm Malliga taking part in the gardening workshop organised for caregivers.
Through activities like baking, exercising and gardening, caregivers like Mdm Malliga can get some respite from their daily caregiving duties, and befriend other caregivers who face similar challenges.
“I always thought that my life would be relatively smooth sailing. I never thought that I would have to downgrade my house and sacrifice my job in order to care for my grown son. I used to have trouble eating and sleeping because I was worried if Ramesh could cope on his own without me. Today, I'm grateful that he's become less anxious and more confident with the help of the coaches at TCIL. I am sure that he can regain his independence again,” shares Mdm Malliga, who feels that she can now return to work without worrying about Ramesh.
TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL) is a day activity centre which offers competence-based training programmes for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. It aims to provide them with functional knowledge and skills that will equip them to live independently in the community. This client-focused training programme teaches daily living and pre-employment skills to trainees, and visual arts, sports and recreational activities to improve their quality of life.
Story published in 2023