Can Caregiver Burden Be Reduced and How?

Can Caregiver Burden Be Reduced and How?

Caregiver can be a spouse, partner, parent, adult children, relative, sibling, friend, or a neighbor. This person can be a paid or an unpaid member of one’s social network and he/she helps an individual with their daily life activities. Caregiving can become necessary after being diagnosed with a chronic disease, due to old age, a disability or an impairment of some kind, or a mental disorder.

Their tasks can range from buying groceries to showering the care receiver and practically being on call 24/7. Though this can be a fulfilling role, it can consume a big part of the physical, mental, and emotional energy of the caregiver. It is therefore pivotal to learn how one can be a quality caregiver and how the subsequent caregiver burden can be minimized.

The Life of a Caregiver

Statistics shows that approximately 44 million Americans give 37 billion hours of unpaid care on a yearly basis for adult members of the family and friends. Women provide more than 75 percent of caregiving support in the U.S. What’s more, with the aging population in developed societies on the rise, caregiving is recognized as a crucial role on a functional and economic level and in addition to organizations for people with disabilities, there are different forms of support for caregivers too.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregiving can occur literally overnight or begin gradually, i.e. the caregiver begins doing simpler tasks for the care receiver like washing their laundry or taking them to the doctor’s and then it slowly increases in duties and the caregiver becomes more and more involved in the daily life of the care receiver- they are now transferring the care receiver from bed to chair and vice versa and handling their legal matters and finances- among other challenging tasks.

How to Be a Good Caregiver

Although the number of caregivers is not a small one, not all carers are great in what their do. In fact, there is a set of traits and habits that one needs to possess to provide excellent care. Some of the major characteristics that a good caregiver should have are patience, empathy and compassion, trustworthiness, reliability, and flexibility. But, before anything else, a good caregiver is the one who has a natural urge to be there for people in need and the one for whom helping others is one of their priorities.

The Hardships of Caregivers

While doing their best and working hard to assist their family members or friends as much as they can, caregivers risk their own physical and psychosocial health and a lot of them find it stressful and demanding to obtain balance between being a good caregiver, working a job, and being a parent or a spouse.

Regardless of how and why one takes on the role of a caregiver, a lot of different emotions will come to the surface at the beginning or after being a carer for some period of time. Although caregivers think that they will never experience negative emotions while caring for their mother or brother who they love dearly, they eventually appear.

However, a large number of caregivers tries to bury these feelings due to a fear of judging themselves or being judged by others or simply because they do not want to bother others with their issues. Nonetheless, avoiding emotions and not dealing with your current state of mind will soon reach its maximum and the risk of insomnia, diseases, chronic stress, etc. will significantly increase. A decisive part of dealing with your feelings is admitting their presence.

Since no one is perfect, caregivers will often face anger, ambivalence, anxiety, irritability, depression, sadness, disgust, embarrassment, fear, frustration, boredom, guilt, irritability, grief, jealousy, impatience, resentment, loss, tiredness, and lack of appreciation. When it comes to their physical health, studies have found a link between informal caregiving and lack of physical activity, poor diet, sleeping issues, heart disease, diabetes, back and muscle injury, surplus weight, cancer, and arthritis.

How to Cope with Caregiving

In order to be able to care for another person, carers need to learn how to take proper care for themselves, which unfortunately, is at the bottom of their to-do list. First and foremost, a caregiver needs to face all personal barriers that may be preventing them from taking care for themselves so that they can be quality caregivers. This means eliminating misconceptions, negative self talk, and previous misbeliefs. Afterwards, it is recommendable to learn how to manage stress, which can be done by recognizing the symptoms like irritability and insomnia, and then identifying the main cause and seeing what can be changed. What cannot be changed should be accepted as such and one should learn how to move on. Activities like meditation, yoga, exercising, gardening, or a simple coffee break with a friend can mean a lot when you are a caregiver, particularly in the reduction of chronic stress. Making a goal-list is never a bad idea and you should include all tasks that you want to achieve in the following period like going to the dentist’s, working out, etc.

Because of the strenuous nature of caregiving, it is not uncommon for caregivers to face a lot of obstacles and problems while caring for their closest ones. This is when they need to identify the major problem and think of potential solutions and test them to see which one works. You can always look for another pair of eyes like a sibling, a relative, or a friend for more ideas.

It is also crucial to note that a good caregiver knows how to communicate clearly so that they get the needed support and should know how to ask and accept help, either by other family members or professionals in the field. Last but not least, they can always rely on respite care when they need a break from caring for others. Use this time of several hours or days for self-care and go to the movies, take a short vacation, walk in the park, or get a massage. Without doubt, a fulfilled, happy, and relaxed caregiver is mentally and physically strong and can avoid burnout and other complications along the way.

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