Pictured (from left): Reynard (CAREwell Triage Coordinator), Shari (CAREwell Keyworker), Xiuhua (CAREwell Keyworker)
This article was written by Shari Tan.
CAREwell is the professional arm in CaringSG that supports our work with Caregivers. Today, we put faces to this program and hope to answer some of your burning questions!
First up, we have Reynard. He is our Triage Coordinator who is a trained Social Worker. If you are referred to CWCS, you would most likely hear from him first!
Reynard, tell us a little about what you do?
I am usually the first point of contact for the caregivers that are referred to us. The caregivers are generally very forthcoming when I get in touch with them. They will share quite freely.
Sometimes as they share about their family situation, they will feel sad and down so in that moment, my role is really just to listen to them, empathise and try to accurately capture what their needs are at that point in time because often, there would be different competing needs at the same time. I will try to crystallise what these needs are and to prioritize them.
Could you share a memorable experience with us?
One of my memorable experiences was when this caregiver – after she shared about what she was going through – shared that she felt much lighter at the end of a call. She specifically said that she felt 20% lighter! I have never had anyone give an accurate value to how they felt and her response just stuck with me. She felt good to be listened to and commented that it had been quite a while that someone had actually listened to her.
Next up, we have Shari, one of our two Keyworkers in CWCS! Shari’s background is in Speech and Language Therapy and Psychotherapy.
Shari, could you share about what you do and some of the challenges you face as a Keyworker?
Our caregivers are often highly resourceful and may have access to many services and be connected to multiple professionals. However, often these services are uncoordinated and unintegrated resulting in caregivers feeling drained not only emotionally but also financially, and yet unable to see the outcomes they want for their children.
We come in as keyworkers to assess the needs of the Caregiver in relation to the dependent’s and family’s needs and journey alongside with them to meet their personal and family goals. We prioritize the caregiver as we realise that they are the lynchpin in the whole family unit and their well-being is absolutely critical.
One of the challenges is that most caregivers tend to prioritize others in the family. The focus is usually on their child with special needs. As parents, we naturally want the best for our children and we will pull out all stops for them but often, we neglect ourselves and our spouses.
As keyworkers, we thus try and redirect caregivers back to themselves while crafting out a customised family support plan that integrates social services, healthcare and family life. While this model of care is well established overseas, it is still relatively unknown here in Singapore. This poses a challenge to our work too. We hope in time that the role of keyworkers and caregiver well-being would be better understood and supported.
Last but not least, we have Xiuhua whose professional background is in Nursing.
Xiuhua, could you share with us what you find fulfilling about your role as a Keyworker?
I feel fulfilled that we are able to empower caregivers to advocate for their child’s needs. For example, I had one caregiver who was totally lost as to what to do after her child graduated from special school.
At that time, she was running between polyclinics, different hospitals and struggling to bring her child to all of these appointments which she was recommended to go for. She was exhausted mentally and physically but yet unable to access the right services that would meet her and her child’s needs.
I got to know her, understood her needs and helped to connect her with SG Enable. I modelled to her how she might share her needs with SG enable and other service providers and provided lots of encouragement to her. At some point, she gained enough confidence to take over and begun advocating for her child more effectively! Being able to witness her transformation and being a part of her journey was extremely fulfilling!
As is evident in the sharing above, a caregiver’s challenges are multifaceted and often, a lonely and confusing journey. Navigating the social and healthcare system is complex and what we seek to do in our team is to provide the necessary emotional support and service ordination to our caregivers.
It is truly rewarding when we see our caregivers transforming from struggling and overwhelmed to being empowered and resilient in their caregiving journey. To see a whole family uplifted and thriving is what keeps us going!
CaringSG’s multidisciplinary team of CAREwell professional staff and volunteers are poised to support caregivers in navigating the complex services to better access care and services via our CAREwell Community Support (CWCS) Programme.
Learn more about CAREwell here.