Society at large urged to provide greater support, understanding for carers

Speakers and participants pose for one for the album after the forum.

KUCHING, Nov 2: Society needs to understand that the role of carers can be demanding and stressful, which could even affect their own physical and emotional health.

Dr Ling How Kee, who spoke at a recent forum “Caring for Carers: What Needs to Change?” organised by Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS), believed that society at large must play their role to help reduce stress on carers.

“The reality faced by carers is rarely understood. Few people stop to consider how demanding the role can be despite most of us likely to face being a carer or needing care at some stage in our lives,” she said when presenting her topic “Women and their multiple roles as carers”.

Dr Ling added that women are particularly vulnerable as gender bias means they are expected to shoulder the responsibility much more than men especially in this part of the world.

Based on the findings of her previous research in the topic areas of ageing and children with disabilities, she highlighted that society’s view of caring being the duty of women has prevented women from either getting into, remaining or progressing in the labour force.

“This can lead them to have reduced life chances, and loss of social and economic independence; and worst still when it is their turn to receive care in their later age, the social and economic supports are not there for them”, she said.

Research has shown caring can adversely impact the carer’s physical and emotional health, creates isolation and is associated with financial stress and reduced career progression, she continued.

Forum panelist Fiona Marcus Raja, who is a carer to her six-year-old son who had cancer, shared her own experience on the many hurdles and little empathy there was to carers.

She cited examples, which ranged from schools that wanted to exclude her child from activities as he needed to take medication during class time, to reactions to her personal postings on Facebook.

Fiona said when she showed herself having some rare free time in the social media, it led to people asking who was looking after her child even though she had only been briefly away from him. Others criticised her for what she was giving her son to eat.

“It’s not easy to reach out, as there is a fear about how society would react and say if we admitted that we needed some space, time away,” she explained.

In addition to creating a more empathetic responses, Gill Raja, the third speaker, called for more systematic change so care was shared more effectively.

“There is a need for more partnership between service providers, whether they are from the government, private sector or the NGOs, as well as focus on bringing the help to the family in their own community,” she said.

Gill revealed that other countries had changed their attitudes and responses for better attention to carers through the publication of Carer’s Charters backed with apt legislation.

SWWS is looking to propose similar move to the state government, as well as other changes that needed to be addressed at the end of their Women for Progress series.

The organisation is calling for views from the public on changes that needed to be taken to improve the situation for carers.

Those with opinions and suggestions can email SWWS at — DayakDaily