We already wrote about “caregiver burden” in the past, a term that refers to the impact that caring for a person with dementia has on the carer. This impact can be physical, psychological, and economical, and is often quite substantial.
People living in a country we often write about, China, are no stranger to this phenomenon. China is the country with the largest population on earth, and as a result has a massive ageing population. In 2013, the number of over 60’s was over 200M, roughly 15% of the total population, and estimates say that there are around 9-10M people living with dementia. This number is expected to double in the next 20 years.
While awareness regarding dementia is still not widespread amongst the Chinese population, the government is aware of the ticking time-bomb they are dealing with, and there is a growing, yet still limited, body of research on the topic. One topic that however is not touched upon often by researchers is caregiver burden in China.
Cultural traditions are strong in China, and that, together with the local medical care system and its regulations, makes it so that the family take the lion share of the caregiving duties. This is especially significant if we consider the typical 4-2-1 family structure (four grandparents, 2 parents, 1 child), which resulted from the one child policy.
Almost all people living with dementia are cared for by their families in their home, and only a very minor percentage of them have access to hospitals or skilled nursing facilities. Furthermore, the Chinese medical system does not include treatment of dementia in the chronic illness management schemes, therefore reimbursement for cost of care and treatment is very low.
Caregiver burden in China manifests itself most often in the same way it does in the rest of the world: higher degrees of anxiety, depression and sleep problems. Not surprisingly, when caregiver burden does manifest itself, it does directly proportionally to the severity of dementia symptoms of the person that is being taken care of.
It appears clear that China, as the rest of the world, needs to create an environment and network with stronger support, both for people living with the dementia and those taking care of them.
Liu, S., et al., (2016), Caregiver burden and prevalence of depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances in Alzheimer’s disease caregivers in China, in “Journal of Clinical Nursing”, 16, pp. 1291-1300.