Help for expatriate caregivers in Japan

Help for expatriate caregivers in Japan

Help for expatriate caregivers in Japan

It has to be said that Japan is a magical destination for the majority of relocating expats, but cultural differences can prove problematic in cases of emergency.

Japan’s unique culture goes back several thousand years, but it can be difficult for new expat arrivals to understand. In working life as well as when emergencies strike, it’s best to watch what the locals do and attempt to replicate it as well as possible. This approach is crucial if a medical emergency strikes, as the obstacles of Japanese culture and the tricky language can lead to misunderstandings and stress.

Western expats are familiar with being treated as individuals during and after accidents or illnesses, but this isn’t how it’s done in Japan. Even without the language difficulties, Japanese institutional caregiving operates on the premise that ‘one size fits all’. Treating individuals as individuals doesn’t exist as a concept, making it difficult for expatriates to benefit from what’s on offer as they’re not allowed to specify their needs. The country provides help such as heavily-reduced cab fares for those in wheelchairs, but husbands and wives acting as caregivers in the home get hardly any assistance whatsoever.

Thinking outside the box is unheard of in Japanese institutions, and expat attempts to change this are doomed to fail. Helpers and nurses can be provided, but any assistance to family caregivers including counselling on how to cope just isn’t there. In addition, much-needed financial support for expats spouses acting as caregivers also isn’t available, and consultants’ inflexible hours make it difficult for working spouses to meet with specialists or doctors. Perhaps worst of all, due to the way the system operates, expat caregivers’ emotional needs are simply not met, increasing the stress of caring for a disabled loved one.

Luckily, there are support groups able and willing to help, including access to day care in order to allow caregivers to continue working, transportation support, interpreters and other essential services both for those who are ill and those who are looking after them. The Foreign Residency Advisory Centre is one, along with the TELL Lifeline, whose operators can give assitance in finding resources available for stressed-out expat carers. For medical info and translations, AMDA (the Association of Medical Doctors Asia) and Himawari are useful contacts, and the Tokyo Parent-Child Learning Group gives help to the parents of special needs children.

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