SINGAPORE: Forty per cent to 60 per cent of caregivers looking after people with dementia suffer from "significant stress". This is according to a study funded by the National Healthcare Group and carried out by Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s (TTSH) Institute of Geriatrics and Active Ageing on its patients' caregivers at its Memory Clinic.
However, the hospital is more worried about another trend it found - caregivers have been showing signs of feeling inadequate when it comes to taking care of their loved ones, which could affect them psychologically.
“WORRY ABOUT PERFORMANCE” STRESS
Amarbir Singh gave up his tutoring business to take care of his mother, who developed dementia in 2011. He said he is constantly making sure his mother is all right because she has complete memory loss. He also said he is often critical about how he is performing as a caregiver.
He elaborated: "You're always on edge. But there're other things that happen. You have insomnia. You feel very jittery. You're wondering what's going to happen next, whether she'll fall.”
This sort of anxiety, plus self-criticism of one's role as a caregiver are signs of what Tan Tock Seng Hospital is calling "Worry about Performance" (WaP) stress. The hospital said this is dangerous, as it could lead to caregivers burning out, so it wants to raise more awareness on the matter.
Said Dr Lim Wee Shiong, a senior consultant at the Institute of Geriatrics and Active Ageing at TTSH: "We are currently conducting research, looking at Worry about Performance, and the relationship with mastery of the caregiving role.
"We hope that in the future, we will also develop a scale that can actually accurately measure performance, so that we can then diagnose caregivers who have WaP stress. What is important is that we affirm them in this caregiving role and also equip them."
There is support available for caregivers in Singapore. TTSH offers counselling sessions and workshops. At the community level, the Agency for Integrated Care has financial assistance schemes, while the Alzheimer's Disease Association runs a support centre for families living with people with dementia.