This ongoing research project (up to December 2007) seeks to obtain a broad profile of caregivers and their care recipients in Singapore (Phase I), as well as identify their needs and explore how these needs can be better satisfied through improved health and social services (Phase II).
Besides obtaining a broad profile of caregivers and their care recipients, Phase I also set the stage for Phase II, serving as a database whereby potential participants were recruited for more in-depth studies in Phase II. Phase I of the project had already been completed. Please refer to the section on Publications where a working paper is available for downloading.
Phase II of the research project involves three separate but related studies, namely, spousal caregivers of family members, adult children and children-in-law who are caregivers of their aged parents, and lastly, caregivers who are looking after family members suffering from brain injury. The Principal Investigator, Dr Ng Guat Tin, the Co-Principal Investigator, Dr Kalyani Mehta, and Collaborator, Dr Allison Rowlands are undertaking the three studies, respectively. They will consolidate their research findings so as to highlight similarities and differences across the life stage of caregivers and the conditions of care recipients.
This is a niche area of research as there are increasing numbers of elderly couples who live independently on their own after their children get married and set up their own nuclear families. As women tend to live longer, it is more likely that they will be the ones to provide care to their husbands in times of old age. As such, this study seeks to explore needs specific to spousal caregivers and their care recipients as they will face somewhat different issues from adult children in the process of caregiving. This research also aims to study the utilisation of support services in the community and highlight the potential areas to look into so as to provide adequate support to these caregivers and their spouses. A comparison will be made between spousal caregivers in Singapore and Japan with the collaboration of Prof Okamoto Takiko from Meiji Gakuin University. As the Japanese population is ageing faster than Singapore, it will be useful to study their policy response to an ageing population.
This study depicts the struggles of being in the “sandwiched-generation”. Besides having to provide caregiving to their frail and aged parents, the adult children also have to look after their own families, if they are married with children of their own. Most of the time, the adult children have their own careers to handle. Thus, this group of caregivers face stress from at least three different areas of their lives. Things may get complicated when siblings “push” the responsibilities of caring for their parents to one another, causing relational problems to arise from the constantly changing family dynamics. One of the possible trends is that adult children who are single may end up providing care to their parents, because they do not have their own families to take care of, unlike their married siblings. There are times when adult children or children-in-law have to give up their jobs in order to care for their ailing parents throughout the day, because the caregiving activities, such as preparing meals and accompanying elderly parents for medical appointments, cannot be blended smoothly into their working hours. This study explores the potential areas to provide support to these adult children caregivers, for the sake of the well-being of their parents, their own families and most importantly for themselves.
The struggles faced by caregivers looking after their brain injured family members have been well documented in Western countries, but what about the local scene? This research is done specifically to look at the strengths of the caregivers and how they persevere in their caregiving responsibilities. When family members acquire brain injuries, not only some of their intellectual and physical functioning are compromised, but their personalities undergo changes as well so much so that they may become a different person from who they once were. Therefore, caregivers may also feel a great sense of loss because they have to look after a family member who has become a stranger to them. In some circumstances, both caregivers and their care recipients experience social isolation, when the care recipients are no longer able to blend into society. How do these caregivers continue in their caregiving roles despite their struggles then? What encourages them to carry on? Do they gain any satisfaction in return through such caregiving responsibilities? If so, what kind of satisfaction do they get? These are some of the questions which this research aims to answer. At the same time, this research also delves into some of the areas in which caregivers need support in so as to prevent being “burned out” in the process of caregiving.
As part of Phase II, this component of the research project is to identify the health and social services available to family caregivers, the cost of the services and their usage. Attention will also be placed on the overlaps and gaps of the services in place and challenges faced by organisations when obtaining funds and reaching out to isolated caregivers. The survey of service providers seeks to provide feedback to policy makers by reflecting the adequacy of current services.
- Working Paper (No. 2006-01) of this research project can be downloaded here.
- Working Paper (No. 2007-01) of this research project can be downloaded here.
- Mehta, K. K. (2006). A Critical review of Singapore’s policies aimed at supporting families caring for older members. Journal of Aging and Social Policy, 18 (3/4), 43-57.