Straits Times reader Dr Jaclyn Toh Ai Lin wrote in to the Straits Times last week to highlight the financial difficulties caregivers face in taking care of their elderly sick relatives. I appreciate very much the compassion and wisdom expressed by Dr Jaclyn Toh Ai Lin in her letter (“Ease financial burden of caregivers; last Thursday).
Most certainly, caring for an elderly relative involves lots of sacrifices and commitment. Yet support measures to help ease their struggles are very weak. In the case of caregivers caring for the mentally ill, the task is even more daunting.
I have looked after my wife for 37 years and had no choice but to give up my $2,000 job in 2001 because she was going through so many relapses of her schizophrenia –15 in all.
Five months ago, after my wife’s knee surgery, the doctors in the Ang Mo Kio rehab hospital recommended that I secure a part-time maid as they are worried sick that I will continue to suffer burnout. Appeal letters were sent to several ministers, but all turned a blind eye. (See recommended letter from the doctor which is attached at cover). My Member of Parliament, Seng Han Thong has tried his level best to help secure a part- time maid for us, but even his compassionate appeal has been rejected.
Today, with my wife’s arthritis condition taking a turn for the worse, as a writer struggling to make ends meet, I often have to write my books in the wee hours of the morning as she requires care for the most part of the day because of fall risks.
Then comes the next hurdle – marketing my books at churches and other platforms. There are some 30 Catholic churches in Singapore, but only six allow me to sell my books at their masses. In the Institute of Mental Health, books which their staff write – many of whom are doctors, take centre stage while those penned by patients and caregivers are given less prominence.
Psychaitric patients seeking treatment for their mental disorders countinue to face job discrimination from employers. The government repeatedly says there will be no welfare, only workfare. When such patients cannot find jobs, in what way can they apply for workfare?
To ease the emotional, physical and financial burden on caregivers, I appeal to the Singapore Government to seriously consider giving a montly allowance of $400 to long suffering caregivers. This practice is carried out in well developed countries like the U.K. Canada and Australia.
Can this request along with the services of a part-time maid which I have been trying to secure for 6 months, be met, DPM Tharman? I appreciate a reply from your office.
Raymond Anthony Fernando
Blogged on Raymond's blog- Ray of Light