Our Story
Achieving a Sense of Purpose When Extending a Hand to Those Who Care
Dexter Yeng
Cluster Head and Counsellor, Caregivers Alliance Limited
Published on 30/07/20
Dexter Yeng is a Cluster Head and a counsellor with Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL), an organisation that reaches out to all caregivers of persons with mental health issues in Singapore and empowers them to achieve a high level of well-being and resilience. On top of his duties of counselling and conducting the Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) Education Programme, Dexter also rolls out initiatives which help the caregivers get the help they need to care for their loved ones quickly and effectively. This is his story.
 
There are many diverse roles in Social Service. Can you tell us more about your role specifically?
 
I provide professional counselling and facilitate the C2C course for caregivers of persons with mental health issues. The C2C programme equips caregivers with practical skills and knowledge to care for their loved ones, while providing advice on how to practise self-care.
 
How does counselling and taking the C2C programme help caregivers?
 
It is true that individuals with care needs should receive the necessary support and attention they require. However, the well-being of caregivers of these individuals is just as important. Taking care of someone for a prolonged period can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Oftentimes, the caregivers may not have time to recharge themselves, and this may very quickly lead them to burn out.
 
We’re only human, and this means that we require just as much social and emotional support as we provide for others. As a counsellor, I do my best to provide caregivers with a safe space to express themselves, and the necessary support they may need to help them cope with their feelings.
 
The C2C course complements counselling, as the classes give caregivers practical information they need about their care recipients’ available treatment and medication, strengthens their ability to manage crises and helps them access community resources. The course also helps caregivers better understand the challenges faced by their loved ones, and their own caregiving challenges as well. With these insights, they are then able to take care of both their needs and their loved ones.
 
With this in mind, I believe that if the caregivers are taken care of, they are more likely to make good progress with the people they care for as well.
 
Why did you choose counselling as a career?
 
When I was a young boy, my uncle suffered from schizophrenia. It was difficult for me to witness because he was a smart and loving man. But as he went through the active phase of his illness, he started hearing voices, and his personality began to change. Back then, my family lacked the knowledge or guidance on how to manage his condition. This led to many arguments, and I was sad that I was unable to help my family during this difficult period.
 
I pursued counselling because I want to give caregivers the support and knowledge they need to help the people they love. No one should have to journey through this challenging path alone.
 
For example, I met Jane*, a mother who was a caregiver for her father who has dementia. When she first came to CAL, she was exasperated. She was having trouble persuading her father to let her care for him. He wouldn’t respond to her requests to take medication, and refused to speak to her for long periods of time.
 
Through the combination of counselling and training, she learnt effective methods of healthy communication. She realised that she’d been treating her father like a patient rather than a loved one.
 
After the course, she began applying her new communication skills at home. Instead of giving her father curt orders, she began to soften her language and connect with him in a more tender way. Her father responded positively, and I’m pleased to report that their relationship has strengthened over the months – allowing her to care for him with less conflict.
 
It’s easy to forget to be gentle when you’re overwhelmed. So the counselling and C2C training helps our clients to learn to empathise with their loved ones, and communicate effectively.
 
It’s cases like these that make me feel like I’m making a true difference in the lives of others.
 
What do you feel is unique about your role?
 
Beyond the work I do, I also see how we may improve things. I’m grateful to be able to have the autonomy and support from my work environment to initiate change.
 
For example, I recently came up with the idea of collaborating with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s Sunshine Buddy programme to make use of their pushcarts to raise awareness of CAL’s services. Now CAL volunteers are at the pushcart regularly to answer enquiries about CAL. This idea came to me when I realised that there was a lack of awareness about the initiatives by CAL. So what better way to offer our resources to caregivers than to publicise ourselves in a place they frequent? KTPH’s pushcart is a permanent publicity feature for sharing programmes and activities to enhance the patient’s experience. I’m happy to say that we’re reaching out to more people to support them in their caregiving journeys.
 
That’s very admirable. Why is it important that caregivers get this support?
 
It’s important to support caregivers whenever possible. Caregivers are crucial in the recovery of the people they care for, and it’s important that they are taken care of too. In this regard, I am always happy to help and support them through my role.
 
* The client’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
 
Counselling is one of many roles in social service. To find out more, click here.
Dexter and the publicity pushcart he initiated to raise awareness for CAL services.