40% of Carers Provide Care Alone, while Most Never Use Respite Service
- HKCS works with local shops in the community to provide respite services.
- The government is urged to strengthen public education and improve support measures.
A survey found that over 40% of carers of the elderly had to provide care alone, while nearly 90% had never used an elderly respite service. As Hong Kong's population continues to age rapidly, the government is promoting ‘ageing in place’. However, the lack of comprehensive respite services places a heavy burden on carers hoping to achieve 'ageing in place'. In August this year, Hong Kong Christian Service (HKCS) conducted a 'Community Respite Services Survey' in which 499 carers of the elderly were interviewed by questionnaire. It found that while they have a need for respite services, they lack understanding. Current respite services do not meet their needs in terms of locations, times and application procedures. Therefore, HKCS has urged the government to strengthen public education on respite services and use technology to improve support measures. Besides, since May this year, HKCS has launched 'Relief Corner (角落休息暫)' in collaboration with several shops in Shamshuipo, experimenting with a new partnership model of community respite services for the elderly, and hoping to recruit more shops and volunteers.
- Respondents were mainly female (81.8%). 28.1% were aged 51 to 60, and 40.7% were aged 61 or above, reflecting the prevalence of 'the elderly taking care of the elderly'.
- 72.7% of respondents were caring for one elderly person, 53.1% had been caring for 5 years or more. The elderly being cared for were mainly their parents (69.5%) or spouses (20.6%).
Results and Analysis
1. Pressure Came from Long Hours of Providing Care Alone
- 33.3% of carers rated their caring pressure as 8 to 10 (out of 10), which is 'very high', and the most common reactions due to pressure were 'tiredness' (62.5%), 'irritation' (52.9%) and 'constant feeling of tension' (40.5%).
- The main source of pressure for carers was 'long hours of providing care alone'. 43.3% said 'no one else could share the caring workload'. 27.7% had to spend 8 hours or above a day caring for the elderly on weekdays, equivalent to or more than a full-time job.
2. Carers Concerned that the Elderly cannot Adapt to Respite Care
- Despite the pressures on carers, 89.6% had never used respite services, mainly because of 'unawareness of related services' (38.3%) and 'worries that the person being cared for would not be able to adapt' (29.8%). This reflects carers' lack of knowledge about the ability of respite services to provide support, and existing respite services are not meeting the needs of the elderly.
3. Flexible Respite Services Help Carers Handle Personal Matters
- When carers had to take time out from caring to deal with personal matters, 47.1% could not immediately find someone to take their place, 58.7% chose to 'delay dealing with matters' and 37.0% chose to 'cancel dealing with matters'.
- The top three elements that carers would most like to see in respite services were 'service location close to home' (72.7%), 'flexible service times' (66.1%) and 'immediate availability without booking' (54.3%). Existing respite services often do not meet these requirements.
Sharing of 'Relief Corner' Participants
- Carer: Joyce Kwan, 58, cares for her 86-year-old mother, who has dementia, and they live together in Shamshuipo. Joyce said she had not used respite services in the past because she was worried about her mother's ability to adapt to unfamiliar environment and the difficulty of booking in advance. In August this year, as she needed to have a medical check-up, she joined 'Relief Corner', offering respite care for her mother at the restaurant Years. She said, 'the community respite service let me know that I am not alone in caring for my mum and that others care about me too.' She hopes that there will be more convenient and flexible respite services in the community so that more carers can have a break.
- Volunteer: Joanne Yip, 59, is a volunteer for 'Relief Corner' and a former carer. She knows how important respite services are for carers. She had once helped to arrange respite services for a carer to give her a break. The carer later told Joanne that she was able to recharge her energy and cope better with her caring responsibilities. Joanne said, 'this experience made me feel very fulfilled, knowing that I had contributed to the community.'
- Shop Owner: Kit Ho is the owner of the restaurant Years. Since July this year, Years has become a respite point for 'Relief Corner'. Kit said that after recently witnessing the tragedies of many carers, she decided to lend a helping hand. She said that with the support of social workers and volunteers, providing respite services at the restaurant would not disrupt daily business and could support community needs in the long term - making it a very worthwhile corporate social responsibility project. She said, 'building a carer-friendly community requires the involvement of the whole society. I hope more shops in the district can get involved.'
Based on the above survey results, HKCS makes the following recommendations:
1. Strengthening Public Education and Information Dissemination on Respite Services
- Various means, such as the government’s one-stop information gateway for carers and the respite service trial, should be used to educate carers and the elderly about community respite services, to help them understand and make good use of the services, to encourage community shops to provide support, and to break down stereotypes in society that respite services are only for emergencies.
2. Encouraging Diversified Community Respite Services through Partnership
- The government should take the lead in promoting carers’ use of community respite services by providing subsidies, and rewarding shops that provide respite services.
- Community shops should find out more about the needs of carers in the community and provide support based on their abilities.
- The social welfare sector should provide information and training for community shops, link volunteers and explore respite spaces within communities.
3. Using Digital Technology to Improve Support for Carers
- The government should optimise the existing Vacancy Enquiry System for Respite Services, adding real-time vacancy information with map locations to help carers search for vacancies in different types of respite services nearby, based on where they live.
- An online booking system for respite services should be developed.
Bonnie Cheung, Coordinator of HKCS’s Active Ageing & Community Care Service said, ‘while many carers are able to care for the elderly, the pressure remains high. Suitable community respite services can give them a break and help them achieve “ageing in place” in long term. “Relief Corner”, a community respite service launched by HKCS in partnership with the shops in Shamshuipo in May, has already served nearly 100 people. The threshold for providing respite services is not high - space for two to four people to rest is sufficient. HKCS will provide training for the staff of the participating shops to meet the different needs of the elderly. We sincerely invite more people to volunteer or provide community respite spaces to build a carer-friendly community together.’ Those interested in volunteering or providing respite spaces can contact the HKCS enquiry line at 98430631.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms Bonnie CHEUNG, Coordinator, Active Ageing & Community Care Service (Tel: 2731 6379)
Mr Don CHENG, Assistant Corporate Communication Officer (Tel: 2731 6263)
> > > Press Release 2023 < < <
From left: Don Cheng, Assistant Corporate Communication Officer, Jackie Chan, Supervisor of Centre for Research & Development, Bonnie Cheung, Coordinator of Active Ageing & Community Care Service, Carer Joyce Kwan, Volunteer Joanne Yip, and Kit Ho, Owner of Years
Carer Joyce Kwan said she will continue to use respite services in the future so she can have time to relax.
Kit Ho, Owner of Years, said, in partnership with HKCS, Years provides seating as a rest area
and has developed special menus for the elderly.