A group representing caregivers yesterday called for public awareness of families dealing with long-term care burdens, while reassuring caregivers that support is available, after a family was found dead on Friday.
The Taiwan Association of Family Caregivers issued the call after a couple and their two children were found dead in a vehicle in Kaohsiung in what is believed to have been a murder-suicide.
The body of a 57-year-old man surnamed Chien (簡) was found in the driver’s seat when police arrived at the scene after receiving a report at about 8am.
Chien’s wife, 52, son, 24, and daughter, 11, were lying on the rear seat, possibly asphyxiated by exhaust fumes, police said.
No suicide note was found in the vehicle, and the case has been turned over to prosecutors and forensic investigators to determine the cause of death, police said.
The family was from a low to middle-income household that received NT$10,130 in subsidies per month, Kaohsiung Social Affairs Bureau employees said.
Chien, the sole breadwinner of the family, worked odd jobs while caring for his wife, who had cancer, while his son had epilepsy and his daughter had aphasia, Daliao District (大寮) Chief Huang Po-hsiung (黃伯雄) said.
His wife’s cancer might have been too much for Chien, association secretary-general Chen Ching-ning (陳景寧) said.
Tragedies among families in long-term care situations often result from a caregiver’s inability to take on additional burdens and their sense of desperation in the absence of social support, Chen said.
The association has identified 13 risk factors for recognizing overburdened family caregivers, it said, adding that people outside a family can help prevent similar tragedies.
The signs include: The caregiver has suicidal thoughts; is experiencing domestic violence; is in urgent need of medical treatment; is a patient themselves; has mental disorders; attends to a person with mental issues; or must care for two or more patients, especially when the patients are older.
Some caregivers do not have outside assistance or must take over from a domestic care worker who had been the primary caregiver, it said.
Others at risk are those who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or have been denied government aid, it said, adding that male caregivers in particular might need more support.
Surveys in Japan have found that male caregivers, due to their relative lack of skill in caregiving and the burdens of cultural pressure, might take drastic actions when dealing with stress as a result of their circumstances, the association said.
Caregivers might also experience more emotional fluctuations as the end of the year approaches, it said.
At least three of the factors appear to have been present in the Kaohsiung case, such as the caregiver being male and having to attend to two or more people with no help, it said.
As the government has limited professional personnel to address the issue, it should raise public awareness about the challenges family caregivers face, so people in their communities can offer timely help to those under extreme stress, it said.
Government subsidies for such families have not been used effectively, because ordinary caregivers need more time to change their notions of care, and also need psychological and social support, Chen said.
Official support for heavily burdened caregivers usually ends when they reject outside help, which might constitute the largest loophole in the network, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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