What you need to know
For caregivers over 65 caring for another elderly person, help is out there. They're just not taking it.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of people who have become caregivers for their elderly relatives. It’s a stressful job, especially for those with little experience in caring for others. This is especially so when the caregivers are elderly themselves.
This kind of care, where an elderly person cares for an elderly spouse or relative, is becoming increasingly common. Among those over age 65 who needed long-term care, the percentage who named their spouse as their primary caregiver rose from 13.2 percent in 2005 to 21.5 percent in 2017, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare's survey on the Health and Living Status of the Elderly.
According to the survey data, 49.1 percent of caregivers over 65 years old were looking after their spouses, and most of them were working over 14 hours a day. Of these elderly caregivers, nearly half (49.2 percent) said they had nobody who could help out and give them a break every so often.
These statistics point to the increasingly common occurrence of “elderly-for-elderly care” arrangements in Taiwan – and note that elderly caregivers are understandably getting stressed out.
To help them cope with the pressure-filled responsibilities of long-term care, caregivers can seek help from government-funded elderly care centers (日間照顧中心) and get some much-needed relief and breathing space. These centers provide services such as day care, residential care, and temporary day care center accommodation (also known as “breathing service,” or 又稱喘息服務). These services can help the main caregiver by giving them a break, some me-time, and relief from their daily burdens.
However, according to the 2017 survey, 40 to 50 percent of people over the age of 65 did not know about these long-term services.
About 48 percent of elderly caregivers did not know there were day care centers available, and nearly 35 percent of respondents did not know about residential care services. When compared with a survey taken in 2013, however, the proportion of people that did not know about these services had dropped significantly.
Over 50 percent of respondents said they already knew about the day care center and residential care services, but chose not to use them. The main reason respondents cited for not wanting to use these two services was that family members preferred to take care of the patients themselves.
The fact that so many family members prefer to take on the burden of caregiving may be related to trust, familiarity and the patient’s own preference and comfort level.
However, as “elderly-for-elderly care” becomes more common in Taiwan’s rapidly aging society, the strength and energy of caregivers at large is also on the wane. Elderly caregivers find themselves in greater need of long-term care services – and these offerings remain readily available.
The above glance at the data shows that, as Taiwan’s elderly population keeps increasing, one main obstacle to the quality of long-term care in Taiwan is the inability to persuade patients to accept care from outside the family.
This article first appeared on the Chinese-language Taiwan edition of The News Lens and can be found here.
Translator: Zeke Li
Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)
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