Good afternoon, everyone. This is truly an honour to be here today.
Ladies and gentlemen, caregivers and professionals, this is really a transformative event for all the caregivers in Singapore and I really want to thank you for being here today.
This whole idea of a National CAREConference and CARECarnival actually started for me personally five years ago, In 2018, my child — I have three children, two of them with special needs — the youngest, was diagnosed with autism and had to enter a special school. So, I had to give up my job and become a full-time caregiver.
At the same time, in the same year, my mother-in-law, a very close friend to me, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went on this journey of full-time caregiving as a mother of children with special needs and also a caregiver to a person with dementia and breast cancer. At that point in time I really felt lost. Wow, there’re so many services to navigate, and there’re so many things I need to learn even as a professional (because I’m a doctor).
I remember I was looking at the mental health and the elderly sector. There were conferences for caregivers or persons with elderly issues, mental health issues, but there wasn’t anything much for persons with disability.
So in 2019 November, we gathered a group of caregivers and we did the first ever CARE Carnival right here in the Enabling Village. And that was a time that I made a wish.
I wished that one day, caregivers of persons with disabilities, caregivers of persons with mental health conditions and caregivers of seniors can all come together in one platform, in one day, at one time, and one heart, to look at caregiving as a role, as someone who is important in this nation of Singapore. And we’re able to then work with the professionals, work with the different stakeholders to empower this whole community of caregivers. Not differentiated, not in silos and not cut apart by their dependant’s needs, but we caregivers as one holistic person.
So this is really a dream come true for me to be able to come here today and give this closing speech. Thank you everyone for coming here, to put your hearts and your brain and your lives together to celebrate caregiving and acknowledge the love that every caregiver gives to our dependants.
For all the caregivers out there, we see you care. And we care for you, too. For all the professionals who are out there, thank you for coming together with caregivers to learn and grow together. And with this Together effort, Singapore can truly become a more inclusive and caring Singapore in the future.
This CAREConference, it’s so enriching in half a day and I’m just thinking to myself, how can we cram it so much in one day? I made a secret wish today that we will have more CARE Conferences in future and maybe longer (in duration) with more topics, so that we can have more cross-pollination and more learning.
What I learnt today is we really need to take a holistic, integrative and ecological approach. It’s not just dependant-centric, there is a caregiver-centric aspect as well when we help caregivers of persons with disabilities, mental health, or seniors. We must also look into the ecosystem and integrate the services to help these caregivers to navigate this lifelong journey of caregiving.
Secondly, for professionals, while you care for caregivers and care for our loved ones, you have to care for yourself too. So as caregivers, all we need you to be is to be a friend. We need you to first come alongside with us and be our friend first. Please take care of yourself friend. And next, we need you to be resourceful and also be humble and learn together with us. So we can all learn together. We can learn about the different caregiving approaches, different frameworks and different learnings from the different sector.
For caregivers, this is a call to action. We can only make the future better if we are part of that creation process. For caregivers, if you are new, join a support group. If you’re an experienced caregiver, strengthen yourself, be knowledgeable, and come back and serve. There are many caregiver support organisations so we do look forward to you contributing, and volunteering and putting in your lives to enrich other lives.
And lastly, for family and friends, you are really the sensor and the eyes out there for every caregiver. We need you to be there to bring any caregivers who are struggling to come into the sector.
Thank you so much everyone for being with us today.
Lastly, I want to have a shout out for the CARECarnivals coming in the next three Saturdays. Please come and continue this joyful celebration of caregiving and learning together in the next three Saturdays at our CARECarnivals in Enabing Village, Kampung Admiralty as well as Heartbeat@Bedok. I thank everyone for joining this National CAREConference.