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June 8, 2013

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Families will be trained to care for seniors with impairments

Family members of seniors with physical disabilities will receive training on how to care for them as the city tests a program to provide better assistance to the elderly with special needs.

The first training session will start next week at a Jiangning Road residential community in Jing'an District. The free program is eventually expected to be promoted citywide.

"There is huge demand to care for seniors living at home, but there are a lot of problems related with their care," Sun Pengbiao, secretary general of the Shanghai Gerontological Society, said yesterday. "The program is a good approach to address some of these problems."

The eight courses, lasting one month, will teach daily care skills for seniors with physical disabilities, the use of rehabilitation devices, diet and nutrition, psychological interference and how to handle emergencies.

About 30 people will attend the classes. They were selected from a large number of applicants based on the age and disabilities of the seniors they care for, Sun said.

"We hope the government will allocate a special fund for the program," Sun added.

Major problems related with the daily care of seniors with physical disabilities include insufficient nursing knowledge and skills, an acute shortage of professional nurses and facilities, high nursing fees charged by nursing agencies and poor awareness of rehabilitation devices.

An estimated 9 percent, or 410,000, of Shanghai's population of people aged 60 or older suffers some sort of physical or mental disability. And the number is rising, Sun said.

As Shanghai's population ages and more families struggle to care for elders at home, vacancies in senior care facilities have become scarce. The situation is most acute for people with dementia or physical disabilities who require round-the-clock care, but many facilities won't accept them for fear of complaints from family members or even requests for compensation if something goes wrong.

Sometimes the children are also seniors and don't have the strength or energy to care for their older parents.

The daughter and son-in-law of Li Suqing, 114, have taken care of her for 48 years.

"We are struggling from day by day, but we never dare to think who will take care of our mother in the future," said 76-year-old Gong Jingfa, Li's son-in-law. He said his wife suffers from heart disease and is "exhausted" from having to care for her mother 24/7.

In most cases, seniors resist being sent to senior homes due to the traditional belief of filial piety.

Li Meilian, a resident living in Hongkou District, said: "My mother, who suffers from bedsores, has refused to stay at senior homes. But we don't live together and it is hard for us to provide round-the-clock care."

Experts said many people are not good at taking care of their parents with physical disabilities although they are more than willing to do so.


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