Taking Care of Caregivers

Senior laughing with caregiver outside on a bright, warm day.

65 million Americans are non-medical professionals who are now caregivers.

According to The Mayo Clinic the incidence of non-medical professionals who are now caregivers exceeds 65 million Americans. Generally the care is provided to a loved one in need, including a spouse, parent, sibling, or disabled child. According to Novak (2013), most caregivers are of the “sandwich generation”; have a living parent age 65 or greater, are raising a child in the home who is 18 or younger, and/or are financially supporting a grown child. More than 60% of caregivers have part or full-time jobs in addition to their caregiving responsibilities. At least one in six caregivers reports a decline in their personal health after taking on their caregiver duties and two of five caregivers report financial difficulties (Novak, 2013).

Although caring for a loved one in need has many rewards and is done willingly, caregiver stress, exhaustion, and illness can occur. Caregiver stress is a combination of emotional and physical strain and can lead to negative outcomes for the caregiver as well as the patient.

Symptoms of Caregiver Stress

Mayo Clinic notes common symptoms of caregiver stress as:

  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Feeling overwhelmed and irritable
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy

Other subtle symptoms of caregiver stress include feelings of guilt, loneliness, frustration, and anger. Ongoing stress, over time, may lead to caregiver depression and health problems including heart disease and diabetes.

Reduce Caregiver Stress

The mayo Clinic offers the following suggestions as strategies to reduce caregiver stress:

  • Accept help
  • Focus on what amount of care you are able to provide
  • Get connected
  • Join a support group
  • Seek social support
  • Set personal health goals including adequate sleep and proper nutrition
  • See your doctor
  • Learn to delegate
  • Keep information flowing

Respite care, a temporary care setting outside of the home, is also available in many communities. Using adult day care centers, day hospitals, and short-term nursing home facilities will also provide needed breaks for caregivers.

At The Botsford Cancer Center there are several services geared to support caregivers including a beautiful healing garden, support groups where we partner with Gilda’s Club, and individual counseling as needed. We understand that caregivers provide an invaluable service to our common patients and definitely impact outcomes.

Tips and Resources

Many good tips and resource materials are available electronically including:

References

Article Written by Penny Windmair, RN, Botsford Breast Center Nurse Navigator

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