Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Dementia hurts carers too

FAMILY ISSUES:A survey said that not only does caring for those with dementia affect direct caregivers, it also puts strains on marriages and wider family relationships

By Lin Hsiang-mei and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Up to 90 percent of families with members who have Alzheimer’s disease said they have experienced marital problems caused by caring for the elderly, a survey recently released by Taipei City Hospital said.

The survey, conducted by Chen Jui-hsing (甄瑞興), director of the Department of Neurology at the hospital’s Renai branch, studied the strains placed on 200 individuals who have family members suffering from preliminary to mid-stage dementia.

“Most of the pressure on the caregiver comes from the patient’s emotional instability and erratic behavior,” Chen said.

The survey reported that 58 percent of caregivers do not have time to rest, while 57 percent said their social activities were disrupted as a result of looking after those with dementia.

Meanwhile, 74 percent of respondents said they felt emotionally exhausted because they no longer have the patience to care for parents with dementia.

Eighty percent of respondents said that family members often quarrel over who should take care of parents with dementia, resulting in deterioration of family relationships.

Also, because elderly people with dementia often exhibit behavior that can be perceived as eccentric, are unable to control their bladders and often refuse to change their clothing, more than 80 percent of caregivers surveyed said they have felt embarrassed, or even ashamed, the survey said.

In one case, Chen said a woman, who is the only daughter in her family, had to care for her father-in-law on a daily basis. As this led to dissatisfaction from her family, she put her father-in-law into a nursing home for the elderly.

Her father-in-law’s condition subsequently deteriorated, leading to finger-pointing between her family and her husband’s family over who was to blame, which put her marriage in jeopardy.

In some cases, family members of those with dementia suffer from depression, Chen said, adding that as the country lacks an adequate long-term care system, many families experience financial difficulties and other problems.

“It is important for individuals to learn how to provide care for their family members who have dementia,” Chen said.

“People should not think that elderly people with dementia are being eccentric on purpose,” he said.

“Caregivers can try to shift their attention to other topics. For example, if a patient refuses to take a shower, the caregiver could focus on their personal inclinations. If the person cares about their appearance, tell them that showering every day can help them to stay more attractive. Use persuasion where it is needed to solve the problem,” Chen added.

Chen said that people often experience dementia for between five to nine years, from the beginning of the affliction to their death, and therefore it is important to treat them with dignity in their final years.

He suggested that caregivers and families of elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia join support groups, attend training on caregiving techniques and learn how to better take care of those with the disease.

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