The Straits Times (5 July 2019)
Madam Janet Ong, a 78-year-old housewife, spent five years caring for her husband after he was stricken by dementia.
“My late husband got lost quite a few times while he was out – I often worried about where he was and sometimes I cried at night out of stress. But I didn’t ask people to help me,” she said.
The burden on caregivers can affect their well-being, with the risk of depression quite high. They will soon get more help on coping with their role emotionally.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) will be rolling out a screening tool that will assess caregiver mastery – how in control the caregiver feels of his life situation – and other variables to identify those at risk of poor health outcomes.
It will also introduce two training courses that will teach caregivers practical skills such as problem solving and communication, as well as guide them on processing emotional responses and give them a greater sense of capability.
The training courses are based on programmes by Canada’s Sinai Health System, and will be localised and delivered by TTSH staff and community partners.
From 2015 to 2017, 274 pairs of family caregivers and elderly patients were surveyed, and it was found that about one in three family caregivers was at risk of depression, with high anxiety and a poor quality of life.
This is the first programme to focus on the caregiver’s emotional well-being. The screening tool is also the first to take caregiver mastery into consideration. During hospitalisation of their loved ones, caregivers will be screened as part of the patients’ discharge planning, so that high-risk caregivers can be identified and have their needs assessed.
The screening takes five to eight minutes to complete and categorises caregivers into low, intermediate and high risk. Depending on their needs and risk levels, caregivers will be referred to training programmes, where they will be trained on resourcefulness and how to solve problems instead of reacting emotionally to them.
The pilot programme will start by the end of this year in a hospital setting, with around 300 to 500 caregivers to be assessed. All are looking after dementia patients. The final cost and details of the programme are still being worked out, but participants in the pilot will incur no cost. TTSH is looking to work together with community partners to execute the initiative.
“With the increasingly ageing population in Singapore, we hope to boost the mastery levels of caregivers, so that they are able to continue providing sustained care for their loved ones in the long run without succumbing to ill health themselves,” said Dr Chan Ee Yuee, assistant director of nursing at TTSH.
1 in 3
Ratio of family caregivers at risk of depression, with high anxiety and a poor quality of life, in a 2015-2017 survey of 274 pairs of family caregivers and elderly patients.