Continued from pervious page

Caring for a child with developmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disability can be overwhelming so it is no surprise that a caregiver can suffer a burnout. Dr Tay Kai Hong, Associate Consultant, Department of Psychiatry at Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), a member of the SingHealth group, offers tips on how caregivers can overcome caregiver stress and where they can turn to for help.

Tips for overcoming caregiver stress

  1. Care for yourself first
    Caring for the developmentally impaired is a marathon, not a sprint. Caregivers need to pace themselves to avoid burnout. Caring for yourself physically, nutritionally and emotionally allows you to provide sustainable care. Realise you have your own needs and make a conscious effort to meet them

  2. Focus on the positives (emotions and experiences), not just on the challenges. Some caregivers see their journey as the most fulfilling and rewarding endeavor in their lives

  3. Appreciate the strengths and unique attributes of the person with a developmental disability

  4. Take a break – tap on support from the extended family. Know what respite services are available

  5. Band together and manage differing opinions within the family – it takes a village to raise a child.

  6. Know the services available. Don't be afraid to seek help

  7. Join a support group. Find comfort and support from other “special parents”. Share tips and resources

  8. Recognise that most of the stigma may come from within – the concept of self-stigma. You may be surprised to find that the public is kinder than you think

  9. Do some future care planning – this may be done with the help of professionals such as social workers and lawyers. Making care plans well in advance will reduce uncertainty and anxiety and provide peace of mind.

Where caregivers can seek help

Singapore has a fairly comprehensive range of services to support persons with physical and mental disabilities. This is in line with the nation’s 3rd Enabling Masterplan which was launched in 2017. Services range from special schools to Adult Disability Homes to specialised psychiatric services such as the Adult Neuro-Developmental Service at the Institute of Mental Health.

  • Some Adult Disability Homes provide respite services to allow the rest of the family to take a break, such as going on a holiday to recharge. Self-care is an essential ingredient in providing sustainable care. There is no need to feel guilty about taking a break

  • Consult any social worker or counsellor at your Family Service Centre, or speak with a Medical Social Worker at any restructured hospital

  • Online portals such as SGEnable and Autism Resource Centre (ARC) provide a comprehensive range of support resources and allow the public to apply for some services

  • E2C (Employability and Employment Centre), based at The Enabling Village and operated by ARC, provides assessment, training and supported, customised employment opportunities through collaboration with employers such as National Library Board (NLB), Tiong Bahru Bakery, Starbucks, Pathlight school and UOB bank. They receive enquiries through a hotline and via email

If you suspect that you are clinically depressed or harbour suicidal feelings, approach any doctor or seek specialised help from mental health professionals. General mental health services are available in every major restructured hospital.

See the previous page for reasons for caregiver burnout and caregiver stress symptoms to watch out for.

Ref: M19