This morning, as I switched on the television in a hotel room in Japan, a piece of news immediately caught my attention. An older woman is said to have killed her 82-year old husband whom she had been caring for. She left a note that stated that she was stressed out from caregiving.
Such a tragedy is yet another urgent reminder that the burdens of a caregiver are an issue of concern and there needs to be extra measures to support the caregivers not only in Japan but around the world as well.
It is true that in Japan, an increasing support for caregivers is available now. Apart from the caregiver support groups, there are also caregiving seminars which teaches the caregivers many practical skills like lifting the care receiver from the bed to the wheelchair. A popular class is the cooking classes for caregivers. This class is said to be much appreciated by the elderly men who are caregivers or are living alone at home.
In Japan, caregiving support also includes technological assistance. Long term care insurances can be utilized to pay for the rental of beds and other innovative care support equipment such as automatic beds that can turn the elderly from the left side to the right which is helpful in reducing bed sores, and also a vacuum-like tubing that is attached to the diapers which helps to clean the discharge from a bed-ridden person immediately.
Although the availability of long term care insurances has helped in reducing the burden of caregiving, the physical and emotional caregiving burden still rests on the family member, especially on the caregiving spouse. However, I feel that more caregiving support will definitely help prevent further tragedies like the one stated above.
Dr. Thang Leng Leng
National University of Singapore (NUS)
(Writer is a member of iCare Life Advisory Board)