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My sister has fallen ill from the stress of caregiving

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a housewife in my 30s. This concerns my younger sister, who is almost 30.

She went to university but struggled to find work after she graduated. After a while, she eventually found a job but resigned a year or so later and returned to our parents’ house.

Since then, she hasn’t looked for a job and instead does housekeeping for our parents, who work in the family business. Our aging grandparents with dementia live in the same house and she takes care of them.

She started contacting me sometime around the end of last year complaining about her health. She texts me almost every day blaming our family for her poor health. When she’s feeling particularly unwell, she texts me saying such things as “I wish they would die,” or “I’ll kill them.”

She seems to be suffering from exhaustion, brought about by the stress of looking after our grandparents as well as distrust of our mom and dad. My parents don’t seem to be making an effort to reduce her burden.

I think my sister wants to help with household chores and take care of our grandparents out of indebtedness because she is unemployed.

I’d appreciate it if you could offer some advice explaining what I can do for her.

K, Tochigi Prefecture

Dear Ms. K:

Being the sole carer of grandparents with dementia must be really tough. Your sister probably can’t find a moment to relax, be it day or night. She doesn’t have time to herself and also has to look after people who do not subject to her will, which must make a burden on your sister heavier.

This is probably what is causing her stress. Judging from her background, I think she seems to prefer the security of living with family rather than living alone. So she should stay where she is, try to rebuild her self-esteem and reduce the stress of looking after your grandparents.

To do so, she needs to take a couple of days off a week from nursing them and find time to do something she likes.

Please try to think of ways to ease her workload as soon as possible, such as visiting a public health center in the community to see if day-care service for elderly people with dementia is available or ask for a home helper.

You shouldn’t think of nursing as an “all or nothing” task — but try to reduce the excessive burden. This may help your sister rebuild her confidence.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from May 6, 2018, issue)Speech

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