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Tensions in support for family caregivers of people with dementia in Singapore: A qualitative study

Background: Family members as informal caregivers are considered the first line of support for people with dementia across the world. In Singapore, caregiving expectations revolve around the cultural expectations of providing care in the home environment. However, studies in Singapore have identified a lack of family support for primary caregivers. Family support has been discussed in the literature as the provision of care for people with dementia, and rarely as a resource for family caregivers. Method: To understand family support among primary caregivers in Singapore, 24 semi-structured interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis found four themes: excuses for lack of physical support for the caregiver, tensions between cultural expectations of caregiving and the provision of support, unmet emotional support, and lack of awareness of dementia and caregiving needs. Findings: Caregivers rationalized and forgave the absence of physical support but were frustrated when the lack of support impacted people with dementia. This was seen as a lack of fulfilling cultural obligations of caring for elderly parents. The caregivers also felt frustrated with the lack of emotional support provided to them, but these were unspoken between the caregiver and the family members. Insufficient and unhelpful support giving was exacerbated with the perception of family members’ limited understanding of the demands of caregiving. Conclusion: The findings offer four practical suggestions to address unmet support needs. First, public education is needed to enhance general knowledge about the symptoms and progression of dementia. Second, help is needed to address miscommunication about support within the family. Third, the development of guidebooks is needed to help family caregivers communicate with family members about their various support needs. Fourth, the relationship between cultural expectation and caregiving must be understood within the context of modernity and urbanism. 

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