香山リカのココロの万華鏡:介護マーク、本気で考えて /東京

July 19, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Giving priority treatment to caregivers
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:介護マーク、本気で考えて /東京

These days, certain considerate gestures have become fairly commonplace: things like giving up a "priority seat" to a pregnant woman or to a cane-wielding elderly person, or pushing the button to keep an elevator door open for someone in a wheelchair who is trying to get off.

But a woman who came to my consultation room said that, "people don't understand the stress of caregivers and won't give you their seat on a train."

This woman is a single person in her 50s. She has a job and lives with her elderly parents, who both need care. During the day she uses the services of home helpers and care facilities, but at night she cares for them herself. While she believes in supporting her parents, she can feel the toll of the stress on her body and mind. When she sought medical help to reduce her stress, she was recommended counseling and came to see me. After talking with her for a while, I saw that she was close to suffering from "caregiver depression."

The woman said that on the train to go home after finishing her day's work, she thinks about what she will need to do when she gets home, and that alone brings a wave of exhaustion upon her. If she could only sit, she could rest before arriving home, but usually it is crowded and she has to stand. She can't very well say to someone, "I'm going to be doing care work, so can you give me your seat?"

I suggested, half-jokingly at the time, "It might be good if there was a charm you could wear that would inform others that you're a caregiver" like the key chains given to pregnant women that encourages other passengers to give up their seats for them, but she nodded and said seriously, "You're right."

There are many workplaces that do not give enough consideration to pregnant and child-raising employees, but the lack of consideration for caregivers is greater still.

Of course, more and more nursing care services have become available, but with the falling birth rate and fewer people getting married, it is thought that there will be more cases of people caring for their parents alone, just like this woman.

Some people, with no other option, leave their jobs to focus on care giving, but that is neither good for them nor society, and if they fall into "caregiver depression," it will take a long time for them to recover.

This is why I hope that someone will seriously think about creating some kind of symbol to identify caregivers so they can receive priority seating on public transport.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2015年07月14日 地方版

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