Published on 26 Sep 2023
Mdm Meena, 55, takes care of her husband, Mr Paul, 56 who had a stroke in 2020. The stroke affected his activities of daily living (ADL) and he now uses a quadstick to aid his mobility.
Prior to the stroke, Mr Paul worked as a security supervisor for 15 years at a warehouse in Ubi, where he had 12-hour shifts from Monday to Friday. He collapsed at work three years ago due to a stroke. He used to be independent and took care of things around the home.
When Mr Paul was discharged from the hospital three years ago, it was challenging for Meena to adjust to taking care of his needs. Overnight, she became the sole breadwinner and main caregiver to Mr Paul. When Mr Paul wakes up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, Meena would have to accompany him. At around 5 a.m., she would have to wake up again to prepare for work. Meena reaches work at 6.30 a.m., though 7 a.m. is her reporting time to accommodate her caregiving needs. At 7.30 a.m., she would return home from work to help her husband get dressed and prepared for the day at NTUC Health’s Day Centre for Seniors (Kampung Admiralty). Thankfully, her employer understood her circumstances and it took Meena only around 15 minutes to get to work so she walks back to work after assisting her husband.
Mdm Meena had worked as a cook in a preschool and is currently unemployed because of health considerations. She left her job in July 2023 due to problems with her back and knee and is now getting treatment at one of the local hospitals. She is unable to stand for long periods of time which her job as a cook demands. Her condition had also worsened because she postponed treatment due to work commitments and caregiving responsibilities. Mdm Meena worries that she might have to be hospitalised for treatment and Mr Paul would have to check in to a nursing home temporarily. Mdm Meena hopes that with treatment, she can take better care of Mr Paul and find a suitable job - one that is near home and does not involve much standing.
On coping with her caregiving demands, Mdm Meena mentions that Mr Paul, being at the Day Centre for Seniors, puts her mind at ease. She shared that he was initially averse to going to the Day Centre for Seniors as it "only had old people'' and he only wanted to stay at home after his discharge from hospital. However, she convinced him to go to the Day Centre for Seniors because there are people around who can look after him and there are activities to work on. Mdm Meena shared that Mr Paul enjoys activities at the centre now. Recently, he played balloon badminton in an inter-centre sports competition with other centres. Mdm Meena also proudly displays his artwork, done at the centre, in their living room.
Mr Paul has this to say about his time at the Day Centre for Seniors.
“After going to the Day Centre for Seniors and experiencing all the activities, now if you ask me to stay home, I wouldn’t want to. Because it’s very fun! In the morning, they will offer us coffee, sometimes with bread, sometimes with bao. Then, we will start our activities. There would be exercises like badminton, floorball, and arts and crafts. For arts and crafts, the staff will help me as I can’t move my left hand.”
Mr Paul also finds purpose in the time spent at the centre.
“In the first week, I felt very down, because those in the Day Centre for Seniors are much older than me and some of them have Dementia. Later on, I found out that I can contribute and make their time there better. I can speak Malay, Tamil, English and Hokkein, and can understand some Chinese so that’s a plus point! I can communicate with them when we do activities, like during a ball game, if the ball is coming, I can quickly tell them about it.”
The couple has a son, Janesh, 23, who is in his final year in Nanyang Polytechnic. Mdm Meena mentions that whenever she feels depressed and wants to cry, she would tell herself that this is what she has to do and needs to go on. She asserts that it's all about the mindset. Her son is also a source of support for her, “It has not been easy for him to see his father ill, and then his mother”. They talk about these issues all the time. Mdm Meena's only wish is for him to focus on his studies and excel. Janesh mentions that as mother and son they are a tag-team. They would be there to support each other through the caregiving journey.
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