Jaylene and Janelle (not their real names) are twin sisters who are inseparable. Unfortunately in late 2020, Jaylene suffered a stroke and Janelle had to shoulder the care responsibility for her sister. We talked to Janelle to unveil the heart of sisterly love.
How do you and Jaylene forge such a close kinship?
As twins, I believe that we share a special bond. We went to the same school and were in the same class. When our teacher wanted to separate us, we refused. We grew up with each other and as we grow older, we would contact each other every day.
What were your first reactions when you heard that Jaylene had suffered a stroke?
Jaylene has a history of high blood pressure and breast cancer.
I was very shocked and devastated. I remembered that Jaylene's friend, who always accompanied her for their morning exercise sessions, informed me that Jaylene did not respond to her door knocks. My heart sank and I kept calling Jaylene, but she didn’t reply. I rushed to Jaylene’s house as I knew that something was wrong. I also called the ambulance.
When I reached Jaylene’s house, I saw her lying flat on the floor, soaked in urine. Jaylene was slightly conscious, in pain and could not move. I helped her to clean and dress up and when the ambulance arrived, we were rushed to the hospital. The neurosurgeon informed me that Jaylene had suffered a massive stroke and it was uncertain that she could survive the next 24 hours.
The neurosurgeon consulted me on my opinion to have an operation on Jaylene. He warned me that Jaylene might not be able to pull through within a week’s time. Jaylene was allergic to painkillers and if she had to undergo the operation, she would have to do it without pain relief. It would be a torture for her. I was completely lost at that time and could only pray for her to pull through, together with her pastor and church community.
What were the changes that you observed in Jaylene after her stroke?
Jaylene was an independent and active lady. Do you know that she used to be a horticulturist? After suffering a stroke, she lost her mobility. She also fell into severe depression and it was difficult to leave her alone with a helper. She required me to be around all the time.
How had Jaylene’s stroke affected your life?
At first, my health condition was affected. It was stressful to take care of her psychological needs which required a great amount of care. I found caregiving to be emotionally draining.
Also, I had to constantly encourage and motivate her, although it was not easy for her to recover.
Jaylene’s stroke in a way had influenced me positively. I could not afford to fall sick so I paid more attention to my health by ensuring that I attended my health check-up and also to take my medicine timely.
How did you cope with caregiving responsibilities?
I didn't know what to do initially. I even broke down and was hospitalised as I could not take it. I felt really fortunate to have a group of friends helping us along the way. One such group was our school chat group back from our schooling days in Anglo-Chinese school. Our friends visited Jaylene while she was in the hospital.
One particular friend from our chat group, Sybill, had not been in contact with us for many years. However, she provided us with all the help that we needed. Sybill helped me to physically support Jaylene, aided us with our house renovation, bought the necessary rehabilitation equipment for us and even ordered a portable bed for Jaylene. She also helped us to set up the portable bed and gave us much financial support.
We also had the support from our siblings and our church community group. Our siblings showed their concern for us by checking in with us frequently. Our church community constantly prayed for Jaylene’s recovery.
What were the challenges of caring for a stroke survivor who needs a high level of psychological and emotional care? How did you overcome them?
Jaylene could not accept her condition fully. I had to persuade her to accept psychological help and encouraged her to open up.
Jaylene did not want her friends to know about her condition. She refused to eat her supplements and her appetite was weak. She required a lot of coaxing and I had to monitor her constantly.
Sometimes, I would organise video conference calls with Sybill and Jaylene’s horticulturist friends to talk to Jaylene. I was glad when I see Jaylene become more sociable.
You had some caregiving experiences. How did that help you to care for Jaylene?
My father experienced a stroke before and I assisted my brother to support him.
From my father’s stroke, I knew what were the essential items to buy and also understood the important care needs and plans of a stroke survivor. These kinds of knowledge helped me in my caregiving to Jaylene. However, it was a different experience with Jaylene as I had to take on a more proactive role in the planning process and also be more hands on as I had to set up various equipment for her.
How had S3 helped you and Jaylene?
We really felt that we were like a family in S3. The staff is friendly and the therapists pay the utmost attention to Jaylene’s needs.
What are some words that you would like to share with other caregivers?
We need to have endurance. Love conquers everything.
Stroke Support Station Ltd
SG Enable Village
20 Lengkok Bahru