Caregivers need care, too

Our knowledge and understanding of dementia will keep us from isolating sufferers and their caregivers out of fear ("Elderly people caught 'shoplifting'? They may have dementia"; Jan 25).

It is heartening that more people, such as students and front-line staff in government agencies and businesses, are trained on how to detect those with dementia and how to render assistance to the sufferers accordingly.

But we must not ignore the fact that the disease can be harder on the caregiver than it is on the inflicted person; caring for a loved one with dementia takes a tremendous physical and emotional toll on the caregiver.

The strain of caring for a stricken person can result in stress-related disorders like anxiety, irritability and depression.

It is difficult for some caregivers to find time and space for themselves, thereby overlooking their own personal needs.

In such a helpless situation, caregivers cannot cope alone; they need the support of friends and relatives as much as possible.

The stricken people invariably come to mind when dementia is mentioned, while the caregivers often take the back seat.

It is, thus, important for us to adopt a holistic approach to creating a dementia-friendly community by forming support groups of people sharing their caregiving experiences, and organising workshops where medical experts listen and talk to them.

Equally beneficial are regular periods of respite from caregiving, to enable caregivers to maintain their own physical and mental health. This requires government-funded respite centres and nursing homes.

All this will help to keep their sanity.

So, when we talk about dementia sufferers, let us realise that the disease has adverse impact not only on the stricken person but also on the caregiver.

In short, the paramount importance of caregiving duties must not and cannot be underestimated.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng