What is a caregiver?

Although the definition of a caregiver is vast and varied, a family caregiver is someone who provides any type of physical and/or emotional care for an ill or disabled loved one. These loved ones may suffer from a physical or mental illness, disability or substance misuse. A family caregiver doesn’t have to necessarily be a part of the individual’s immediate family, as friends and neighbors could just as easily take up the mantle as a parent, sibling or child. Unfortunately, these vital roles are little recognized in the USA, but are essential to the overall health system.

What Does it Mean to be a Family Caregiver?

Caregiving can be an immensely rewarding experience, but care for a loved one can also be all-consuming. You may feel as if you’ve lost touch with your friends, family or life and you may begin feeling that your efforts to take care of your loved one are useless. There are many treatment options available for the person you care for, but there are not very many resources to support you as a family caregiver. However, we are here to change that.

Caregiver Stress and Burden

The stress felt by a family caregiver is very common, in any field of caregiving from Alzheimer’s to mental illness.  Caring for someone in need can be overwhelming as it brings out strong emotions, leading some individuals to detach from emotions, isolate themselves from support and feel helpless.  This stress can manifest itself both physically and emotionally and the issues that caregivers often face are communication problems with their loved ones, stigma, scheduling difficulties and financial burdens.  Research has shown that family caregivers often suffer from a number of health issues as a direct result of their caregiving.

These health issues include:

  • Stress-induced health issues
  • Mild to moderate symptoms of Depression
  • Mild to moderate symptoms of Anxiety

Family caregivers should discuss their caregiving related burden, stress and possible distress with their family physician or a reputable counseling service like MyHealios, dedicated to the needs of caregivers.

What Can You Do About It

  1.  Understand how you can help yourself as a family caregiver by seeking professional help and support to avoid the burnout of too much work and the stress that comes with it.
  2. As a family caregiver you will require in-depth knowledge and understanding about the illness of your loved one, about the symptoms, and how to support them through the development of their illness.
  3.  Research demonstrates that a properly trained caregiver can help to improve patient outcomes in treatment, as well as reducing caregiver burden and distress.  It is recommended that you seek help and training to improve the care for your loved one AND yourself.
  4. Be able to address your own needs as a caregiver with awareness of your limits.  Use  preventive self-care measures to help you obtain a healthier lifestyle as a caregiver.
  5. Seeking help through your family physician can assist in identifying the level of perceived burden and stress you are experiencing.