We share a personal story from our Care Pro, Chan Kuan Hong, where he discusses not just the battle-tested coping tips that kept him going when things got really tough, but also how caregiving brought a new meaning to his life and stretched his capacity to love.
Hailing from Johor, Kuan Hong graduated with a Diploma in Nursing back in 2010, and thereafter, graduated with a Nursing degree from International Medical University. He spent most of his nursing career in the operation theatre, where he was the front-liner in saving lives, assisting in surgeries and performing general anaesthesia.
He decided to join Homage as a Care Pro in December 2018 motivated by his ambition — to own his very own day-care and rehabilitation centre for children and the elderly someday. He wanted to experience how it was like to be a caregiver. He remembered that as a young boy, he experienced the feeling of helplessness during the passing of his late aunt, not knowing how to care for her. As a nurse today, he is empowered to care for others, just like his late aunt, with his skills and experience.
Of course, like all carers out there, Kuan Hong’s journey in caregiving wasn’t the smoothest. He found out that It is crucial to be prepared to care for different patients’ needs. Some days are more demanding and stressful than others, especially when patients have a combination of brain-related conditions such as dementia, along with physical infirmity.
One of Kuan Hong’s most challenging experiences to date was when he had to single-handedly lift and position a stroke patient who was much heavier than him to give a bed bath as well as treat the patient’s bed sores. The patient also had incontinence, where one may lack physical control over urination. It wasn’t the most pleasant situation for him but he was reminded there and then to treat this person as if they were his own family member. He realised he needed to see things in a different perspective — of mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter, and the patient did not feel too heavy for him after all.
Handling Caregiver Stress
There’s a story that goes like this, “if you put a frog into a boiling pot of water, it will jump out immediately. But, if you put the same frog in a pot of cold water and slowly raise the temperature, it wouldn’t even notice the heat until it’s too late.” Just like the frog, many caregivers often do not realise they are slowly burning out as caregiving tasks and stress levels increase over time. Falling into an intricate web, silently yet surely, burnout is an experience that pushes a person to the depths of vulnerability.
Kuan Hong once had a patient who passed away as soon as the individual was rushed to the emergency ward. It took a toll on him due to the emotional attachment he had with the individual and the family. He decided to drive down to Morib Beach and today, he calls the beach his escapade. It may not be much but it heals the emotional bereavement to keep him going in life.
But through it all, if there is one thing that keeps him going everyday is the inspiration given by his clinical instructors, Ms Lee Mei Ling and Puan Maryam Hassan. They have motivated him with the strength to care, empathise and be considerate even in the most challenging situations. During his days of being a student nurse, he used to admire how they treated patients with care and dignity — all while being professional. Today, he strives to serve his best too with the same values.
Is The Journey Worth The Emotional And Physical Stress?
There was once when he was caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s and planned for a drive out as the person felt bored staying at home. They drove around the neighbourhood and had a great chat sharing their life journey with each other over coffee. Little did he realise how well the day went by for the both of them and how they’ve turned from strangers to friends!
Although there may be times where he would feel like he can’t face yet another physically draining day, but there are also the days when he finds that he has the patience, love and strength to give to the people who need it most because of the priceless smiles and laughter he receives in return that makes it all worthwhile. Over the years, Kuan Hong has learnt that there are many unsung heroes out there who mostly go unnoticed and unrecognised; the caregivers who are truly devoted to their loved ones, day and night. People who do things that most won’t do. People who give their love, expecting nothing in return. People who perhaps aren’t just people, but are angels in disguise.