"Enhancing support for carers" (2021/06/03)

"Enhancing support for carers" (2021/06/03)

MR YIU SI-WING (in Cantonese):

Deputy President, birth, ageing, illness and death are only natural in life. Babies are taken care of by their parents; after becoming adults, they start to take care of the elderly and the weak around them. Upon entering their twilight years, they need to be cared for by others before finally completing their journeys of life. Thus, everyone has the opportunity to be taken care of and to become a carer.


In traditional Chinese families, people are generally willing to take care of the elderly and the weak around them, if conditions permit. Hong Kong is a small place with a large population and life is stressful. Many families which are unable to take care of their own members in need would expect the Government to give them support, but such support is very limited. Due to a lack of support facilities for the elderly and the weak in Hong Kong, carers at home are subject to greater pressure. The accumulated pressure had resulted in frequent incidents caused by unbearable pressure. In recent years, incidents have occurred in which the carer committed suicide after killing the family member being taken care of. While it is heartbreaking to hear of these incidents, they have aroused social concern about the tragic phenomena of "seniors caring for seniors" and "seniors caring for persons with disabilities ('PWDs')".


Deputy President, care recipients are usually dementia patients, PWDs with special care needs, elderly persons lacking in self-care abilities, etc. At present, the average waiting time for government-subvented residential care homes ("RCHs") for the elderly ("RCHEs") ranges from 24 to 26 months; and the waiting time for RCHs for PWDs ("RCHDs") is even over 10 years. It is an indisputable fact that Hong Kong has a low fertility rate and is becoming an ageing society. According to the projection of the Census and Statistics Department, the ratio of population aged 65 and above will rise from 17% in 2016 to 31% in 2036. As the group of people requiring care grows in size, service demand will also increase.


Since it is believed that the relevant support services will not be fundamentally improved in the short term, I suggest that existing resources should be used on the group most in need. Thus, I agree with Mr LEUNG Che-cheung's proposal of setting up a carer database for the regular collection of carer-related information and data. This will not only facilitate in formulating policies and planning, but may also help analyse, classify and identify priorities of cases, so that precious resources can be used on people most in need, thereby minimizing resource mismatch.


Besides, I also agree with the setting up of carer support service centres in various districts to provide carers with appropriate training and services such as emotional relief. In addition to enabling the carers to acquire appropriate skills and reduce physical strain arising from giving care, it is more important to make carers feel that they are not alone as people of similar circumstances can encourage one another. When carers are emotionally disturbed, they can obtain professional counselling services so as to avoid tragedies. This is because carers often neglect their own needs and most of them are unaware of the various degrees of pressure on them. Coupled with the fact that carers in general seldom socialize with others and do not have anyone to share their feelings with, they are prone to get into an emotional dead-end. Thus, professional counselling services are very important. If carers can be provided with short-term respite services, they may temporarily put aside their heavy caring responsibilities and have some breathing space. This will be physically and emotionally beneficial to them.


In the long term, the Government should certainly make good planning and inject more resources to meet the needs of society. The Government must build more RCHEs and RCHDs to shorten the waiting time and reduce the pressure on carers. In addition, the Government must enhance the professional standard and remuneration of the care services industry so as to attract more new entrants and enable them to see the prospects of career development. I also suggest the Government to subsidize the development of gerontechnology suitable for use in Hong Kong's living environment and RCHs, so that carers living at home and in RCHs can live easier and are less prone to injuries.


Deputy President, I so submit.