Twenty per cent of unpaid caregivers spend 16 hours or more each day taking care of old or disabled family members, while more than a half said they struggled or lacked rest, according to a survey published by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) on Thursday.

DAB has done a survey from March to May about the difficulties of caregivers in Hong Kong. Photo: Mandy Cheng/HKFP.

The pro-Beijing DAB carried out online research between March 10 and May 16, interviewing 654 people aged 18 or above who spend most of their time taking care of the elderly or disabled at home.

Of those being cared for by survey respondents, 61.6 per cent of them were aged 65 or above, while 41.9 per cent 75 or over. Those with physical dysfunctions made up 46.3 per cent, whilst 18.5 per cent had dementia and 9.3 per cent suffered from a mental illness. More than 60 per cent were the parents or spouses of those surveyed.

‘Round-the-clock’ care

The survey found that 37.3 per cent of interviewees had to spend 10 hours or more each day providing care – of those, 20.2 per cent spent 16 hours or above on such tasks. “In other words, aside from the time for sleeping and eating, the caregivers were giving round-the-clock care,” Stanley Li, a DAB lawmaker, said at a Thursday press conference.

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File Photo: GovHK.

There were a multiple issues the surveyed caregivers faced. Just over half – 53.1 per cent – said their biggest struggle was a lack of rest, while 41.4 per cent said that they had no outlet for venting their emotions.

There were also 30.3 per cent of surveyed caregivers who said they were not able to make ends meet owing to a poor income.

Low use of respite service

Currently, government-subsidised residential care homes provide a Residential Respite Service for persons with disabilities and the elderly. The programme aims to alleviate the pressure on caregivers.

For respite services for the elderly, the government provides about 330 full-time residential respite places, and a quota of around 230 designated day-only respite service places. For respite services for persons with disabilities, there are about 390 places, and around 160 day-only places.

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Lek Yuen Estate, Shatin. File Photo: May James/HKFP.

However, according to the survey, only 11.7 per cent of surveyed caregivers had used the services.

“The problem is that venues for the respite services are not convenient, as the caregivers have to send [care recipients] across different districts… and the waiting time is quite long, leading to low usage,” Li said.

Li urged the government to set up a centre in each district in Hong Kong to support carers. The centres could provide respite services, caring skills training and mental support for caregivers.

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mandy cheng

Mandy Cheng

Mandy Cheng is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. Previously, she worked at Ming Pao, focusing on investigative and feature reporting. She also contributed to Cable TV and others.