Daughters most likely to care for dementia patients, Malta study says

A study published in the Malta Journal of Health Sciences revealed that the responsibility for taking care of relatives living with dementia in their homes is most likely to fall on women and daughters

Photo by Cristian Newman
Photo by Cristian Newman

Responsibility for taking care of relatives living with dementia in their homes is most likely to fall on women and daughters, a study recently published in the Malta Journal of Health Sciences reveals.

The study also reports high levels of satisfaction with services offered in Dementia Activity Centres, but shows a lack of awareness and knowledge on a variety of services offered to both patients and care-givers.

The study, authored by Charmaine Spiteri and Charles Scerri, shows that 71% of informal care-givers for persons living with dementia are women, while 45% are the daughters of these persons, closely followed by spouses or partners (42%). Only 11% were sons while 3% were siblings.

This is interpreted as confirmation that “informal caregiving in the Maltese Islands is mostly regarded as an activity cared for by the female gender.”

One reason cited for this is that “daughters, acting as primary care-givers are more likely to experience guilt and may have to relinquish or reduce employment to take up a primary caring role”.

The study was based on the responses to a questionnaire among 50 care-givers who make use of Dementia Activity Centres, 38 of which returned the questionnaire.

Care-givers had a mean age of 60 and on average spent more than 20 hours per day in care-giving.

Bathing (95%), handling of medication (95%) and transportation (92%) were the three top activities that care-givers indicated that they needed help with. 90% also indicated that they need emotional support.

Services that informal care-givers utilised the most included the Active Ageing Centres that are located across the Maltese islands. These were followed by KartAnzjan, the Pharmacy of Your Choice, the Dementia Wards located at St Vincent de Paul, the Continence Service and the Telecare Plus.

All participants were satisfied with the Dementia Activity Centres.

But the study indicates that care-givers were not using a number of dementia-specific services that were available and aimed at supporting them in their care-giving roles.

These included the organisation of Memory Classes for individuals who have recently received a diagnosis of dementia and their informal care-givers, the Memory Clinics (Paola and Floriana Health Centres) the Rehabilitation Hospital Karin Grech, and the availability of the Dementia Intervention Team. However, most informal care-givers had knowledge about the availability of the Dementia Helpline.

Only 63.2% of informal care-givers were aware that a National Dementia Strategy was available in the Maltese Islands. The survey was carried out in 2017.

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