Caption: Mdm Tan, looking happy and fulfilled
Mdm Lily Tan, 67, and her husband, Mr Chng Kiang Cheow, 68, were a close couple. As a taxi driver, Mr Chng would share stories of unruly passengers and kind-hearted strangers with her. He would buy breakfast for the family after his night shift and Mdm Tan would cook supper for him during his short breaks in the evening.
However, all these changed six years ago when Mr Chng failed to come home on time one day. She suspected something was amiss. “I was so worried. That night, I waited for eight hours. When he finally got home about midnight, I asked him where he went but he could not remember.” said Mdm Tan.
Her husband started visiting the bank and polyclinic to renew his taxi licence instead of heading to the relevant office. As Mdm Tan was working full time, she would frequently leave her work at short notice and rush to diffuse the arguments on site.
Sometimes, Mr Chng would throw away the meals she cooked, only to ask for food later on. He would drop by the coffeeshop and buy meals for friends or even strangers. These took a toll on their financial resources, which was made worse when Mdm Tan had to quit her job to become her husband’s full-time caregiver.
Caption: Mdm Tan and Mr Chng at the Healthcare Humanity Awards Ceremony 2018
Not giving up
“Due to memory loss, my husband would ask me the same question over and over again. It was tiring but I needed to ensure his needs are met. After some time, I learnt to understand his behaviour better. I need to be strong to take care of my husband. This is my duty as his wife,” added Mdm Tan.
Mdm Tan had to also accompany her husband for medical appointments and four-hour dialysis sessions three times a week. She could not get enough sleep, and was physically and mentally exhausted; having to keep a watchful eye over his erratic behaviour. During dialysis, Mr Chng would sometimes pull out the tubes and resist any attempts to insert them back. He did not understand why he was at the centre. Mdm Tan started to feel burnout as her responsibilities increased with the need to return to work to provide for the family.
Finding support in the community
Along this journey, Mdm Tan was approached by staff from TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) to join an exercise session at a void deck near her home. Despite her busy schedule, Mdm Tan made an effort to participate, meeting and befriending other residents and TCG staff. With time in between her caregiving duties, she prepared simple meals for TCG staff and her neighbours, surprising them with desserts, pizza and mee siam.
Over time, TCG staff got to know Mdm Tan’s predicament. They discussed with her the family’s care needs and helped to coordinate with the relevant parties. With support from TCG and other service providers, Mdm Tan managed to find a day care centre for her husband as she continued to explore suitable job opportunities.
Caption: Mdm Tan looking jubilant as she receives the award from Singapore President Halimah Yacob at the Healthcare Humanity Awards Ceremony 2018
“Mdm Tan has gone through so much in life. We are encouraged by her love and devotion towards her loved ones. When we shared about the various resources available in the community to help caregivers like her, she was relieved. She asked many questions and would consult us about resolving caregiving issues. As a caregiver and home care specialist, we offered practical help and were also able to lift her spirits by sharing success stories of people we have similarly supported,” said TCG’s Manager, Mr Kelvin Lee.
In recognition of her devotion as an outstanding caregiver, Mdm Tan was awarded the Healthcare Humanity Awards 2018 (Honourable Mention) on 26 April 2018 at the Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.