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Caring for caregivers – a physiotherapist’s view

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For 32-year-old Muhammad Firdaus Bin Mohamed Zin, working as a physiotherapist in the palliative ward at Bright Vision Hospital (BVH) for the past year has been an eye-opener. Compared to his four years’ experience caring for rehab or sub-acute patients, palliative care requires him to be more resilient, extra compassionate and empathising on the job.

Other than caring for patients, Firdaus works closely with caregivers.

“A palliative caregiver’s role is to provide companionship and to assist patients with their physical and emotional needs,” he explained.


Lessening caregiver's burden

Palliative patients’ caregivers may suffer more emotional and physical distress, especially when seeing their loved ones suffer as the cause is irreversible. To help ease caregivers’ stress, BVH provides training to caregivers in performing a range of motion exercises, bathing and even injection procedures. BVH also educates caregivers on the disease their loved ones are going through and what to expect in due course. Social workers also provide emotional support and link them to financial aid.

"Caregivers must also be able to take care of their own health,” advised Firdaus. The stress of caregiving can lead to depression, anxiety or burnout. To prevent this, caregivers need to occasionally take time off to recharge by having enough rest or some ‘me’ time. Emotionally, they can share their feelings with close friends, family members or social workers.


Supporting caregivers

Firdaus used to care for a patient who suffered from weak lower limbs and was unable to move his legs despite feeling discomfort from lying in one position for too long. “The patient had a supportive wife, whom he wished to stay by him constantly which made her weary,” shared Firdaus.

His care team then stepped in to inform the patient that his wife needed to adhere to visiting hours. Following the intervention, his wife was able to go home to rest and was refreshed when she came back the next morning. The team also taught her some range-of-motion exercises to help lessen her husband’s discomfort. With the support, the caregiver was able to take care of herself as well as her husband.

"At BVH, there is always plenty of support to ease caregiver stress, and for them to feel positive and hopeful again. Caring for a loved one who is dying is not easy. Though you may not feel like you are doing much, every little thing that you do means a lot, even if it’s just being around them,” said Firdaus.


This article was published in Hospice Link March issue