Background and purpose: Vietnam is one of the 10 fastest aging countries in the world with a rising number of elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). Families in Vietnam provide most care for persons living with dementia, yet our understanding of the experiences of family caregivers in Vietnam and how to best support them is limited. In this paper, we present the results of a qualitative study of the experienced family caregiving in Vietnam from the perspectives of both family caregivers and other key informants. This study, among the first of its kind, provides insights to develop interventions to support family caregivers of elderly people with dementia in Vietnam and other low- and middle-income countries.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 key stakeholders (12 family caregivers and 9 community leaders) in Hanoi, Vietnam. Family caregivers aged 18 and above providing day-to-day care were identified through a dementia registry. Twelve family caregivers, equally male and female, aged from 48 to 62 (average age of 56) participated in the study. Nine key stakeholders, including four males and five females, were leaders of local organizations (Seniors’ club, Veteran’s club, etc.); staff at local clinics; healthcare policy-makers; and national dementia experts. All interviews, lasting between 45 minutes and one hour, were conducted in Vietnamese and audiotaped with permission. Interviews consisted of pre-developed open-ended questions focusing on three broad areas: (1) the experience of family caregiving, (2) culture and local perceptions of dementia, and (3) resources and support for dementia care. All transcripts were transcribed, cleaned, and de-identified. A descriptive, thematic analysis was conducted, using qualitative analysis software MaxQDA 12. The study was reported using the Standards for reporting qualitative research (SRQR) criteria for reporting qualitative research.
Results: Qualitative data analysis revealed four themes about dementia family caregiving in Vietnam: 1) local interpretation of dementia symptoms as a normal part of aging process rather than a disease, 2) caregiving as a moral and expected familial obligation, 3) patterns of caregiving were heavily influenced by both gender and sibling order, and 4) multiple challenges or hardships, including time constraints, lost income, social isolation, a toll on their perceived physical health, and emotional distress. Caregivers rejected the notion that caregiving was a “burden” and expressed their distress through terms such as frustration, sadness, and exhaustion. There was very limited support in the community for family caregivers and elderly people with dementia. Geriatric social work is currently almost non-existent in Vietnam.
Conclusion: This study highlights the important roles of culture and gender in family caregiving in Vietnam, the significant strain on family caregivers, and the need for the development of community-based programs and supports. The study also highlights the need for Vietnam and other Asian countries in developing geriatric social work to support aging populations and their family caregivers.