The role of a family caregiver is not one many expect to play. It’s hard to anticipate when a loved one might fall ill and develop a chronic condition that requires long-term care. As a family caregiver, you can take on multiple roles — from aiding with daily activities like dressing, feeding and bathing to coordinating medical appointments and medication administration in addition to staying on top of your finances all at once. The responsibilities and demands on this role can be hugely challenging and may potentially put you at the risk of developing depression, anxiety and burnout over a long period of time.
Christine, 58, has been caring for her husband David (61), who is a heart & diabetic patient. David was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in January 2019. Soon after, he underwent a surgical procedure to have 18-cm of his colon removed together with a 4-cm tumour and 16 of the lymph nodes — three of which were diagnosed with stage IIIB cancer. This resulted in another 11 months of him being put on a temporary stoma — a surgically created opening of an intestine for the purpose of discharging body waste. Due to David’s existing heart and diabetic condition, the family was told that it would be a high-risk procedure, which could potentially result in death.
We were confused, frightened, devastated, shocked and in denial as there wasn't any family history of colorectal cancer.
Although the diagnosis of colorectal cancer came as a shock, David’s no stranger to medical procedures. In addition to having received angioplasty in 2005, David found out that he had severe stenosis in 2018. This required him to undergo 6 months of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Three months later, the doctor discovered another cancerous tumour in his liver which had begun to spread, hence requiring him to undergo radiofrequency ablation.
Dealing with multiple chronic conditions has not been easy for the couple, who have been married for 32 years now. As they continue to face this emotional journey one day at a time, they found solace in their Christian faith and the support from their church community.
Ramona, Aviva’s Clinical Case Manager, recommended counselling and a nutrition programme which I fully agree that David may benefit from as he is still anxious and concern about the bowel movements and abdominal pain.
In August 2020, an elderly friend told them about Aviva’s Patient Support Programme — a complimentary healthcare management concierge service for Aviva’s MyShield and MyHealthPlus policyholders who are managing chronic conditions. The programme offers holistic support to kickstart the post-treatment recovery journey for up to 12 months, which includes guidance and training on preventive care, nutrition, stress management and assistance to seek financial aid where necessary.
In collaboration with Aviva’s home care service provider, each plan is carefully designed to suit the unique healthcare needs of each patient and to aid throughout the post-treatment recovery journey.
"David had a Zoom counselling session once and he has not been able to keep his subsequent appointment due to his lethargy after chemotherapy treatments. Ramona was very patient, friendly, understanding and didn't make me feel stressed. She listened to my concerns attentively and encouraged me. It warms my heart that she texted me every now and then to find out how we are coping. Ramona went through great length to link me to Ling Ling who is a nurse coordinator from one of the Aviva’s home care service providers."
Being on the programme means having a dedicated partner by your side to help manage the illness more effectively and ensure the patient receives optimal support that will promote recovery and enhance quality of life.
If there’s one advice Christine can give to other patients and caregivers in a similar situation, she said,
Accept the help that is available. Do not think "it may not help" because you’ll be surprised by how much of your burdens would be lightened.
Visit Aviva Patient Support Programme to find out more or give us a call at +65 6827 9933.