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Survey underlines elderly care constraints in Hong Kong

Due to long hours most of the carers suffer from tiredness, irritation and tension, the study found
 An elderly man wearing a face mask is seen on a street in Hong Kong during the Covid-19 pandemic in this file image. A new survey has highlighted the struggles of those taking care of the city's elderly.

An elderly man wearing a face mask is seen on a street in Hong Kong during the Covid-19 pandemic in this file image. A new survey has highlighted the struggles of those taking care of the city's elderly. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 23, 2023 08:07 AM GMT
Updated: October 24, 2023 05:34 AM GMT

Caregivers in Hong Kong spend long hours at work and most suffer from tiredness, irritation and tension, according to a new study.

Some 40 percent of caregivers work alone, and 90 percent never used Respite Services, which arranges short-term breaks for caregivers by providing temporary care to sick or elderly people, according to the study released on Oct. 22.

The findings are of the “Community Respite Services Survey” conducted by the charity group Hong Kong Christian Service in August. The study interviewed 499 caregivers of the elderly, the group said in a press release.

The study result comes amid concerns about Hong Kong’s low birth rate and rapidly aging population, prompting to prioritize “aging in place,” which means having the ability to live in one’s own home and community independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.

The study report said lack of comprehensive respite services places a heavy burden on carers hoping to achieve “aging in place.”

“Current respite services do not meet their needs in terms of locations, times, and application procedures,” the study said and urged the government to strengthen public education on respite services and use technology to improve support measures.”

Some 81.8 percent of the respondent caregivers were females, 28.1 percent were aged 51 to 60, and 40.7 percent were aged 61 and above.

The age of caregivers reflected the prevalence of “the elderly taking care of the elderly” in Hong Kong, the report stated.

Some 33.3 percent of carers rated their caring pressure as 8 to 10 (out of 10).

The most common reactions due to pressure were ‘tiredness’ (62.5 percent), ‘irritation’ (52.9 percent), and ‘constant feeling of tension’ (40.5 percent).

The main source of pressure for carers was “long hours of providing care alone.”

Despite the pressures, 89.6 percent of caregivers had never used respite services, mainly because of “unawareness of related services” (38.3 percent) and “worries that the person being cared for would not be able to adapt” (29.8 percent).

The response either reflects caregivers’ lack of knowledge about the respite services’ ability to provide support or existing respite services not meeting the needs of the elderly, the report said.

Joyce Kwan, 58, who cares for her 86-year-old mother, who has dementia, had not used respite services because of worrying about her mother's ability to adapt to unfamiliar environments and the difficulty of booking the service in advance.

Last August, when Kwan needed to have a medical check-up, she sought Relief Corner, the respite service that the Hong Kong Christian Service started that month.

The service “let me know that I am not alone in caring for my mum and that others care about me too,” she said.

More convenient and flexible respite services are needed to help more carers take a break, she said.

Community respite services can give a break to caregivers and help achieve ‘aging in place,” said Bonnie Cheung, who coordinates the Ageing & Community Care Services of the Christian Service.

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