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Caregiving to my husband, a stroke patient - by Mrs Lee

I am a homemaker and a primary caregiver to my husband, who is in his 70s, for more than five years now. He suffered a massive stroke which paralysed his left side of his body, both upper and lower limbs. He is on wheelchair and he relies on me for almost everything, from showering to feeding. We have no children, fortunately or unfortunately...depending on how you look at it.  Before his disability, we are still able to make do with our savings. But ever since the stroke, his medical cost becomes a financial burden. 

I have been contemplating to find a job to supplement the family income but I am already in my 60s and many people told me it is difficult or impossible for me, at my age, to get employment. Even if I did get a job, to whom can I turn to for help to look after my husband? But we need money to pay for our daily living like meals, utilities, phone bills and my husband’s medical expenses. Additional costs like transportation fares for his visits to the hospital as well as fees for his physiotherapy sessions also add up. At that time we have around $20,000 in savings, and the amount just get smaller as time passed. One social worker advised me that once our savings run out, we can only turn to the Government for medifunds assistance.

 During the early stage of his disability, he was cooperative in his physiotherapy sessions and I could see improvement in his recovery as he could stand up on his own and walk a few steps. But as the days passed, his condition did not seem to improve and he relied totally on his wheelchair. I felt angry and frustrated many a time as I need to transfer him often to and fro his wheelchair. I was so agitated once that I shouted at him and told him to just stand up and walk for goodness sake! He shoved me aside and I hit myself against the chair. I went into my room and cried buckets.  It was not the first time I cried alone. He could only mumble incoherently as the stroke had also affected his speech. But I know he is angry with me, with himself, feeling hapless and suffers the indignation of my beratings! But who can understand how I feel?

My husband needs to go for his weekly physiotherapy session and monthly medical review. Taking public transport is a hassle especially during office rush hours when the train and buses are packed. It is very tiring for me as I need to wheel my husband throughout the journey. Each visit has left me physically drained.

As most of my time is spent in caregiving, I do not have much time to do house chores or groceries shopping. Sometimes I need to wait till my husband is asleep or resting,before I could rush out to get some groceries. Cooking is at its simplest and getting a good meal outside is difficult as there are no nearby eateries and we also have to consider accessibility for my wheelchair-bound husband. This saddens me more as I do not have any time for myself. I cried whenever I think of it and ask God why this had to happen to me. But I knew I need to stay strong, as my husband only has me now.

Thankfully, my church provides me the support when I most needed it and a VWO has come forward to provide my husband with home-help services to lessen my caregiving burden. Luckily, the support came to me when I most needed it. And I do hope that other similar caregivers out there can receive the appropriate help.

- Mrs Lee,  60s , Homemaker