For many, the role of being a caregiver is reversed when parents reach their golden years. For some, it can come earlier due to an unexpected accident or event.
The latter was exactly what homegrown singer Kit Chan and family faced when her mother suffered a significant painful fall eight years ago. Chan shares with Yahoo Lifestyle SEA the challenges of being a caregiver, what she learned from these eight years, and the advice she can give to those in the same shoes.
“The biggest challenge is perhaps matching what we think is best for my mum to what she thinks is best for herself.”
Following an osteoporosis diagnosis, after Chan’s mother fell and fractured her hip, her family found their familiar roles and routines changed. As a common condition that makes bones brittle, those who have osteoporosis find their bones start to break down quicker than the body can rebuild them, resulting in a loss in strength and structure. Their bones become more susceptible to breaking from a minor fall, a bump or even a sneeze.
“A lot of discussions, communication and mutual understanding is also required of both parties. For instance, she may not always like to do what the doctors prescribed. We tried to be “strict” with her at first, but what we realised is that if she is made very unhappy and felt she has no autonomy, then what is the purpose of our caregiving?” Chan said.
While the physical recovery took only six months, learning and balancing new family norms took much longer. Her mother, whom Chan describes as “strong and independent by nature”, struggled with being vulnerable.
They had soon realised that meeting in the middle was the best solution for her family. “We are here to assist her to continue to live a full, happy and contented life according to her own wishes, within our capabilities.”
For those who have yet to take on a caregiver’s role, it can be difficult to understand the complications and challenges in being one. “I wish we weren’t as high-strung and stressed out at the beginning, but I suppose it was part of the process. With hindsight, we now know we can deal with any problem if we can remain calm and united,” Chan shared.
Indeed, an osteoporosis diagnosis can bring about a series of physical and emotional obstacles for both the patient and their caregivers. Stepping up to the role as a caretaker can take up a lot of time and efforts, and we wondered if filial piety plays a part, especially in making it more bearable.
“I suppose it does when the person to be cared for is one of your parents. But really, I think it is broader than the concept of filial piety. Whomever acts as a caregiver, it is a role and responsibility that you have taken on either voluntarily or out of necessity. Whatever the case might be, the person would most probably be someone important or close to you. If driven by love and care, the burden might be easier to take upon oneself. But if only driven by duty, it could result in resentment,” the 48-year-old shared.
For Chan, after overcoming the initial challenges of being a caregiver to her mother, she realised that the process had taught her to be “more empathetic, patient, sensitive to others’ needs, and less self-centred.” The singer then let on that while these are virtues she aspires to possess, nothing is as effective as having to rise to the occasion that helps her nurture these qualities.
With the various treatment options available, osteoporosis patients can return to living fulfilling and normal lives after their diagnosis. However, the permanent changes one need to adapt can cause nervousness and anxiety for both the patient and their caregivers, especially in the initial stages. We asked Chan to share a little wisdom for those facing similar situations eight years ago.
“This is something I would like to advise anyone who is facing a crisis at home regarding providing care to a family member. Don’t fight. It only makes things worse. Come together, and remember that love is the only way out of any family crisis. Don’t lose hope and try to find something to laugh about together every day, especially when s*t hits the fence!”
For more information on osteoporosis, check out the public education campaign, Fight the Fracture.
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