As part of a new initiative to better support caregivers’ needs and well-being, in December 2020, ADA’s Caregiver Support Services launched a new programme under its umbrella – Caregiver Support & Network.
The Caregiver Support & Network, or CSN for short, aims to promote self-care and foster interaction among caregivers of people living with dementia through hobbies- and interest-based activities, such as themed musical performances, learning basic Cantonese, or even learning how to play the guitar.
Facilitated by ADA social workers and volunteers, caregivers are encouraged to put a pause on their intensive responsibilities, earn some respite, and experience activities beyond the usual Caregiver Support Groups. Instead, CSN provides a safe space for them to nurture their own interests or learn new skills, maintain their well-being, and connect with like-minded individuals at the same time.
Current CSN sessions offered are:
- “Basic Canto-Lingo”: Always wanted to learn Cantonese to converse with your grandparents, or with the elderlies in your community? Caregivers can now finally set aside the time to learn basic conversational Cantonese on a bi-weekly basis, including slang words!
- “Hatha Yoga”: In this type of yoga, participants learn how to move their bodies slowly and deliberately, challenging their strength and flexibility, while at the same time focusing on relaxation and mindfulness. The perfect activity for a stress-free period of respite and self-care.
- “Knits & Knots”: As a beginner’s guide to knitting, this series aims to gather like-minded caregivers with a passion for knitting and creating meaningful pieces, while connecting with other caregivers in a fun-filled environment. The sessions are conducted by mother-daughter duo Katherine Lim and Belinda Seet, graduates from ADA’s Voices for Hope programme and dementia self-advocates.
- “Making Memories”: As a beginner’s course to photography skills, participants get to try their hand at shooting basic portrait, landscape, black and white photos and more, using just their smartphones.
CSN sessions have limited spaces, so as to keep the group small and foster more intimate and meaningful interaction between caregivers.
When asked if she would recommend CSN to fellow caregivers, regular participant Ms Angeline Lua said, “Definitely, I would! It was fun engaging with other caregivers. It also allows for greater emotional support through practical networking and sharing of experiences and information.”
For the more musically-inclined, CSN also includes:
- “Date with Donnie”: A livestreamed series featuring our regular volunteer and professional musician, Donnie Chan, as he serenades participants with evergreen rock ballads and greatest hit songs.
- “Strum & Sing”: Designed as a ‘how to’ course, this series brings together amateur string-pickers as they attempt to master the guitar in just ten sessions!
Our passionate group of guitarists with ADA volunteer and professional musician, Donnie Chan (seated centre).
“Does CSN provide caregiver respite? For sure! During the one-hour weekly session, it takes our minds off our caregiving stresses and woes. Everyone in class just comes together to enjoy playing the guitar. The programme has been helpful to me and music helps me to relax. I am hoping one day I can play and sing for my mum her favourite Mandarin song ‘Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin’ (the moon represents my heart),” said Ms Lisa, caregiver and participant of the ‘Strum & Sing’ series.
“Caregiving can be really exhausting and frustrating. The guitar sessions have helped to boost my mood and shift my focus from the emotional struggles. It helps me to relax and heal,” added Ms Lua, who always had an interest in learning the guitar and decided to take the leap to learn it through CSN.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, getting the right support and mental stimulus is key towards fostering a sustainable and happy caregiving community. Numerous reports of caregiver burnout have been seen in Singapore in recent years, exacerbated by the pandemic and social isolation, with dementia caregiving taking up a large number of cases due to certain behaviours of unmet needs from the person with dementia, coupled with the limitations of caregiver respite outlets. With CSN, this is yet another service gap that ADA hopes to fill, from now till post-COVID times.