11th September 2011
Mr Sam Tan
Mayor - Central Singapore CDC
Dear Mr Tan,
Caregiver Raymond Anthony Fernando's wife falls - Urgent & desperate plea for help
At 11.15pm on Saturday night, 10th Sept 2011, my wife, Doris Lau who has advanced arthritis fell down when she tried to go to the toilet. This is the third time she has fallen down due to the weakness in her knees. It took me one solid hour to get her back into the bed because she is over 85 kilos. She now has bruises on her hands and on her knees. She also hit her head causing a bump there and her neck is painful due to the fall. I burst out in tears when that happened. I am in severe emotional pain & deeply distressed. There is absolutely no one I can turn to during such instances. Despite my pleading so much for help, through the media & other avenues, I am not getting the help/assistance which I desperately need. I am at wits end trying to get support.
Besides advanced arthritis, my wife suffers from a severe mental disorder- schizophrenia & depression that has ravaged her life for 40 years. In addition she has 4 other chronic illness which sees me having to bring her for hospitals visits/clinics at least 8 times a month. Because of the severe pain she is enduring from her advanced arthritis condition, there is a very high risk of her relapsing from her mental illness. It has happened more than twice and she had to end up being hospitalised in IMH. The costs is very high - physical, financial & emotional.Our mental health care system needs a major overhaul because the focus is on the patient & the caregiver is conveniently forgotten. This is one reason why the illness is spreading- like wild fire.
After my wife fell down, I gave her Holy Water (that my Parish Priest gave me) to drink, placed it on her bruises and pray that she will be ok. It is extremely heart-wrenching to see my beloved wife go through this. I am worried sick that the next fall could be fatal because she is at fall risks. Or that she will be paralysed if she falls as there is a metal in her left leg following a total knee replacement that was carried out in 2006. This deep worry of her falling and hurting herself any other time just cannot go on.
I need to go out & buy food, do all her errands, sell my books to provide for the multiple needs of my wife and I do not have any peace of mind whatsoever. In such a scenario, the stress level on me - as a caregiver increases ten fold.
Attempts to get help from MOH, IMH or other providers is of no use. They just don't care!
I desperately need support especially when I'm not in the house for someone to be with Doris so that she is safe. I cannot depend on our family members because the reality is that when you are looking after a loved one with mental illness, you are all alone in this world.
Mr Sam Tan, the CDC which you are now heading needs to reach out to our marginalised communities, who undoubtedly include the mentally ill & their caregivers. Dr Teo Hon Pin has been doing a lot to help sufferers of mental illness & their families. I pray that you can do the same. For it is the only decent thing to do because we are also human beings who need love, understanding, acceptance and support.
Due to the lack of support for people with mental illness, I honestly do not feel like a Singaporean any more. We can never be an inclusive society if we do not give the support to those who need help the most. As Mother Theresa once said: "The biggest disease today is not tuberculosis or leprosy, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”
And my wife and I, like many other mental psychiatric patients and their families feel the same way- Unwanted.
Thank you & God Bless!
Raymond Anthony Fernando
Caregiver & spouse to Doriscc: Prime Minister