Date
12 December 2017
Amid a sharp rise in elderly population, more and more people will find themselves looking after their aged family members or chronic patients at home. Photo: Bloomberg
Amid a sharp rise in elderly population, more and more people will find themselves looking after their aged family members or chronic patients at home. Photo: Bloomberg

Caregivers must first learn to take good care of themselves

The murder and attempted suicide incident that took place recently at a Hong Kong housing estate has brought into focus family tragedies involving senior citizens, chronic patients and their caretakers.

As far back as the 1980s, some local scholars had pointed out that authorities need to pay attention to the issue of assistance services for caretakers. However, the government is still found wanting in this regard.

Given an expected sharp growth in Hong Kong’s elderly population, more and more people have to undertake the job of looking after their elder family members or chronic patients at home. Many of them would feel devastated if they witness their loved ones not getting any better under their care.

The role of being a good caregiver does not just take time and effort, it is also a test of mental strength and the relationship between the patients and caregivers.

Research studies around the world indicate that caretakers face tremendous physical and mental pressure. Data provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014 shows that caretakers, especially females, constantly experience anxiety, depression and burnouts.

Here are some tips for maintaining the physical and mental well-being of caretakers:

1. Identify the symptoms of a burnout, like feeling depressed, losing your temper, having a headache, losing weight, or alcohol or drug abuse. Seek help from friends and professionals when necessary.

2. Reach out to social services and support groups in the community.

3. Focus on the controllable factors and delegate others to complete the tasks that you cannot handle alone.

4. Share the caring responsibility along with other family members and friends.

5. Do not give up your social life for being a caretaker. Instead, share your experience with people around you.

6. Look for short-term residential care service so as to earn yourself a break from looking after your beloved family members.

7. Learn to say ‘Yes’ to those who offer help.

8. Incorporate different forms of entertainment in your daily life.

9. Appreciate every small achievement you have made. Smile to yourself and exercise more often.

If the above steps fail to offer succor, you definitely should seek professional help quickly. Only when you take good care of yourself will you be ready to take good care of others.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 20

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/BN/RC

Clinical psychologist

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