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Reduce Stress on Carers

Kuching: The reality faced by carers is rarely understood. Few people stop to consider how demanding the role can be despite most of us likely to face being a carer or needing care at some stage in our lives.

This was the message from a recent forum entitled, “Caring for Carers: What Needs to Change?”, conducted by Sarawak Women for Women Society.

Participants learnt that research has shown caring can adversely impact the carer’s physical and emotional health, creates isolation and is associated with financial stress and reduced career progression.

Dr Ling How Kee, who presented on the topic of “Women and their multiple roles as carers”, noted that women are particularly vulnerable as gender bias means they are expected to shoulder the responsibility much more than men especially in this part of the world. Based on the findings of her previous research in the topic areas of ageing and children with disabilities, she highlighted that society’s view of caring being the duty of women has prevented women from either getting into, remaining or progressing in the labour force.

“This can lead them to have reduced life chances, and loss of social and economic independence; and worst still when it is their turn to receive care in their later age, the social and economic supports are not there for them”, she added.

Carers provided their own experiencing of caring, including the panellist Fiona Marcus Raja from the Royce Foundation who is a carer to her 6-year-old son who had cancer. She shared about how many hurdles there were and how little empathy there was to carers.

Examples ranged from schools who wanted to exclude her child as he needed to take medication during class time to reactions to her personal postings on Facebook. For instance, when she showed herself having some rare free time it led to people asking who was looking after her child even though she had only been briefly away from him. Others criticised her for what she was giving her son to eat. She noted, “It’s not easy to reach out as there is a fear about how society would react and say if we admitted we needed some space/time away.”

Another carer also shared how no one thought of her need for a break or her own health, just her husband’s, who had a long-term disabling condition.
In addition to more empathetic responses, Gill Raja, the third speaker, called for more systematic change so care was shared more effectively. This needed more partnership between service providers, whether from government, private or the NGO sector and a focus on bringing the help to the family in their own community.

She highlighted how other countries had changed their attitudes and responses through the publication of Carer’s Charters backed with apt legislation. SWWS will be proposing this and other changes at the end of their Women for Progress series. If any members of the public have further views on what needs to change to improve the situation for carers they are welcome to send them to SWWS on info@sarswws.org