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Elderly Men in Japan Learn to Care for their Homebound Wives

  • March 5, 2014

Since the triple disaster in Japan in 2011, an increasing number of elderly men must learn how to take care of their homebound wives. With families scattered due to displacement and decreased economic opportunities, along with reduced capacity at local hospitals and fewer nurses available for home visits, the support systems from the days before the disaster have changed. Some men face a new challenge of providing direct care for disabled family members which can be a daunting task.

Nursing care is extremely difficult for anyone. However, a number of men have difficulty providing nursing care because they may lack confidence and experience. Ms. Takahashi, a care specialist working with Dr. Kawase, who provides care from the AmeriCares-supported Ogatsu dental program, told the team that some of the elderly men have never held cooking knives or washed clothes in their life. Seeing the situation, Dr. Kawase joined Ms. Takahashi of the social welfare group, Kyokujukai, to teach men how to manage these activities on their own.

With support from AmeriCares, Kyokujukai held a men’s cooking class to help men learn how to prepare appropriate meals for their patients. On January 24, AmeriCares met over 20 male participants at the event. Two were accompanied by family members bound to wheelchairs, while another brought his wife who suffers from dementia. Dr. Kawase lectured on the mechanism of eating to avoid choking. He also taught the group helpful food preparation tips, while many asked questions and took notes. Following his lecture, the nutritionist from Kyokujukai explained how to make healthy meals that are suitable for different patients.

After the two lectures, participants practiced cooking with the support of Kyokujukai staff.  As they cooked, they shared their situations and challenges with one another. One participant told AmeriCares staff that he could talk with other participants about personal matters because they are all struggling with a similar situation. Many of the participants requested Kyokujukai and Dr. Kawase hold another session very soon. Dr. Kawase, who always considers how to better serve the people of Ishinomaki, thanked AmeriCares for supporting this important event.

Since the devastating 2011 earthquake and Tsunami devastated the Northeast region of Japan, AmeriCares recovery efforts have developed and supported a range of targeted programs including counseling services to help survivors cope with trauma and loss; increasing and restoring access to health services such as dental care; supporting people with disabilities; and  community-based initiatives that help survivors manage stress and depression with particular focus on psychosocial programs for mothers and babies and the elderly.

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