Family caregiver challenges in dementia care in a country with undeveloped dementia services




To examine socially, culturally and politically constructed factors affecting family caregiver practice in dementia care, and to identify possible changes in a country with undeveloped dementia services.


In China and many other low- and middle-income countries, social transformations are weakening the family care model, which has an impact on the population with dementia. Exploring the challenges that caregivers face may help the international healthcare community to improve dementia services.


A double hermeneutic approach informed by Giddens' Structuration Theory was used.


In-depth semi-structured interviews with 23 family caregivers of people with dementia were conducted in 2012. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed.


Analyses revealed three consequences of socially constructed factors in dementia care, which constrained caregiver practice. First, caregivers were unable to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia. Untreated aggressive behaviours caused harm to the person with dementia and endangered the caregiver and the public. Second, the burden on the primary caregiver was evident and caregivers received limited support. Third, there was little coordination between primary and specialist care services for people with dementia. On critical reflection of potential changes that could improve dementia services, caregivers suggested that community nurses have a leading role in coordinating dementia services and supporting caregivers.


Relying on family caregivers to care for people with dementia without the prevision of dementia services by the public healthcare system generates negative health outcomes for both care recipients and caregivers. The nursing workforce should be developed to support dementia services.