Having shared my view as volunteer and staff in the social service sector supporting the lives of the disadvantaged in my earlier post, it is only fair too that I share the difficulties faced by the care-givers looking after their family members with illnesses or disability. I felt there is no better way to share this than to tell the story of my friend's journey in looking after her sick father.
Being the eldest in the family with 2 other siblings, she was destined to look after her father when his health failed. At that moment, she decided to leave her successful career to look after her sick father so that her 2 siblings can focus on their study and the start of their career.
Both her siblings subsequently did very well, married and moved out of the family. While she wasn't happy with her siblings over the care of their father and issues related to money, the family had been living peacefully as what she and her father wanted. She recalled some of those small incidents of unhappiness when she was asked to pay her father's share when they went out for meals. Her siblings had always argued that they pay for their wife and my friend should pay for her father. He is her father? I thought it is also theirs, right?
Anyway, the second biggest frustration came when her 2 siblings chose to forego their bi-monthly visit, after their father was discharged from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, even after her father's home quarantine order ended for weeks during the SARS period. If not for her friend's help during the quarantine period, my friend and her father may have to suffer without proper meals.
The biggest disappointments came when my friend announced that she had found a partner and decided to proceed with her marriage. Both siblings starts to talk bad about my friend's partner, influenced their father and one even told my friend to
"... stop thinking about marriage. You are already so old! You can't have children so why waste time and money. Just be happy staying and looking after father."
There were lots of tension in the family and situations between her and her father was really bad. The worst came when the siblings discharged her father without her knowledge when her father was hospitalized. Keeping her father, they then forced her to surrender her father and her money and assets to them.
To others and their relative, her father seems to be having a good life thereafter with a maid, new wheelchair and nice clothing. Gone are the days where they saw how she and her father struggled to the dialysis centre or making their way to the market next block to have their breakfast.
She received the news on the death of her father half a year later, just a few hours on the day before her father was cremated. It saddened her with the news as she cannot come to terms with her father's death. Her father who survived many operations and hospital visits died within 6 months after leaving her.
Knowing that I worked in the social served sector, she shared this with me in the hope that I can share this with my fellow colleagues to gain a better understanding on the difficulties of care-givers, their frustrations and sacrifices. She also hopes that more help can be made available to provide the care-givers with their much needed financial, physical and emotional support.