Some caregivers hurt charges out of stress, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Some caregivers hurt charges out of stress

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Experts say frustration builds up and caregivers lash out in the heat of the moment

He had thoughts of killing his mother and then ending his life. Since his father and two siblings had died, he had been shouldering the responsibility of caring for her alone for more than 10 years.

At 70, James (not his real name) was the sole caregiver to his 90-year-old mother, despite being elderly himself.

Because of her limited mobility, he had to be there for her constantly, leaving him with no time for himself, leading to a build-up of stress and anxiety.

Experts told The New Paper that caregivers are often the ones who abuse the elderly because they are overwhelmed.

James was referred to Sage Counselling Centre and sought help from Ms Berlinda Tan, a counsellor there.

She told TNP: "Many caregivers get frustrated and stressed-out. Some get overwhelmed and act out in the heat of the moment but feel remorseful after hitting their parents.

"In Asian culture, we are encouraged to practise values such as filial piety. But the stress can be so overwhelming to some that they end up hurting their loved ones."

Ms Tan's client received counselling from her and his mother was provided with home-care services. This gave him respite and let him enjoy some personal time without having to worry about his mother or feel guilty about leaving her alone at home.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) shared a composite case, which showed up common issues.

It used the example of a Mrs Tan, whose needs increased over time. Her son, Jack, found it harder to cope with caregiving and became extremely frustrated.

When Mrs Tan did not comply with Jack's instructions, he would hit her and shout at her, making her fearful of him.

Even after the authorities reached out to Jack, he refused help and did not allow social workers to see his mother.

MSF said after getting help to create a safety and support plan, Jack learnt different ways of coping with caregiver stress.

Ms Evonne Lek, a family therapist, said of abusers who are primary caregivers: "They have no outlet and might display abusive behaviours. Caregiving can be quite isolating, as often these elderly individuals cannot be left alone and require constant attention from their caregivers."

The Government realises caregiver burnout needs to be addressed. During a marathon seven-hour Parliament session in February, 25 MPs and six office-holders spoke of the importance of helping Singaporeans age well and providing support for caregivers.

Led by Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), the MPs stressed the important role caregivers play in helping seniors age well.

MPs called for more financial assistance to be given to caregivers, especially those who give up their jobs to take care of their family members.

They also suggested the Government consider a caregiver allowance, particularly for full-time caregivers taking care of an elderly person with disabilities or mental health problems.