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The Salvation Army Study Shows Male Carers’ Risk of Breakdown
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As the concept of “aging at home” has been promoted by the government in recent years, there is concern for the carers of the elderly. However, very few studies have been carried out in Hong Kong to analyse the specific needs and stress of male carers, whose number is less than that of female carers. The Salvation Army Carer Service conducted a survey on this issue, and discovered different stress and needs between male carers aged above 60 and those aged 60 or below. 80.6% interviewees expressed their needs for various support services in the coming year. Members of the focus group also mention the lack of listeners and the risk of breakdown for overstress.
 
Methodology
The Salvation Army carried out a “Study on Male Carers’ Stress and Needs” from August to October 2014, asking male carers from various districts in Hong Kong about their caring stress, depression level, caring ability, seeking help pattern, service needs and background information through telephone or face to face interviews. 204 participants were successfully invited and completed the questionnaires. Additionally, two focus groups were arranged.
 
Findings
1. Different caring stress and service needs between male carers aged above 60 and those aged 60 or below
 
  Male Carers aged 60 or below Male Carers aged above 60
Risk Factors 1. poor/lack of family support 1. being a son
  2. not living with elders who need care 2. poor/lack of family support
  3. less than 10 years caring experience 3. cannot afford daily expenses
  4. less than 6 caring hours per day 4. elders who need care have poorer health than those of the same age
  5. working   
 
For those aged 60 or below, over 80% are sons. Those with the above risk factors (see table) are high risk carers and need more support services. Some of them are new carers or need to work. Working outside and taking care of the elders at home simultaneously affect their social life, isolating them from their social circles.
 
For those aged above 60, around 70% are husbands and over 80% are major carers who provide long daily caring period of 13.6 hours in average. Those with the above risk factors (see table) are high risk carers. The burden of caring work directly affects their health as their bodies deteriorate. These old carers tend to seek help from social service organisations because they do not want to bother their children, or the children’s support is limited.
 
2. Services needed
 
80.6% interviewees say they need various services in the coming year. The most needed service for male carers is “daily living support, medical and nursing support, rehabilitation service and escort service”. Male carers aged above 60 need more “information about community resources, government policies and social service organisations’ support services” and “professional advice on decision making”. It is clear that tangible and enquiry services are essential for carers.
 
3. Impact from negative emotions
 
The self-evaluation result of depression level and caring ability is not bad, but it cannot truly reflect the impact of negative emotions on male carers. In the focus groups, some members say that they can hardly find listeners due to man’s pride and their inexperience of emotion expression. They tend to bear stress alone and seldom disclose problems. Some say men usually focus on problem solving and neglect their own feelings, creating a risk of breakdown for overstress. In fact, male carers long for appreciation and recognition from others, which helps reinforce their confidence in doing caring work. 
 
Conclusion
The Salvation Army Carer Association 7th Committee Inauguration was held on 10 January 2015. Four committee members are male, including the chairman and a vice chairman. As the idea of gender equality grows in society, it is foreseeable that more men may become carers. Nonethless, all carers deserve recognition and respect for their contribution and sacrifice, regardless of the gender. The government is advised to create a friendly environment where carers can receive recognition from the society.
 
About The Salvation Army Carer Service
The Salvation Army Carer Service has been operated since 1988, providing services to elders and their carers based on the concept of “people-oriented and sustainable care”. It helps to improve elderly’s quality of life and educate the public about carers’ needs.
 
 
Carer Service conducts a su...