How to Support Caregivers

Across the world, countless individuals provide care or assistance to loved ones living with long-term illnesses or disabilities.

However, providing this type of care can also be physically, emotionally, and financially exhausting. Family caregivers often go above and beyond their usual responsibilities, dedicating much of their time, energy, and resources to caring for their loved ones. And this can take a significant toll on their own health and well-being.

This article will focus on family caregivers’ challenges and why they need support. This article will also explore some of the ways caregivers can get help so they can continue to provide care to their loved ones while also taking care of their own well-being.

Understanding ‘Caregiver Stress’

While caring for a loved one may be rewarding, it can also be extremely taxing physically and emotionally (Kumar et al., 2019). Caregiver stress refers to the burden experienced by individuals caring for a family member or loved one with a chronic illness or disability. This type of stress can negatively affect caregivers’ mental and physical health, causing symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and physical health complaints (Lovell et al., 2012).

Recognizing that caregiver stress is a real issue that can have long-lasting effects is essential. Taking care of oneself is vital for caregivers to continue providing support to their loved ones. By acknowledging caregiving challenges and seeking support, caregivers can take steps to manage stress and improve their overall well-being.

Based on previous studies (Kramer & Thompson, 2001; Lai, 2012; Sullivan & Miller, 2015), providing care for a family member with an illness or disability can come with various challenges, which include the following:

Physiological problems

These can manifest as respiratory issues, difficulty sleeping, and a higher tendency to use over-the-counter medicines, have been observed among male caregivers. Husbands who become caregivers may also experience increased depression and decreased happiness, despite the common belief that male caregiving is a more positive experience.

Poor mental health

Male caregivers are also at a higher risk of developing stress-related illnesses. Significant stress is often experienced while caring for someone with an illness, which can take a toll on the caregiver’s mental health. 

Financial costs 

The costs associated with family caregiving can cause a significant burden for both male and female caregivers. These costs should not be understood solely in financial terms, as they can impact the overall well-being of caregivers.

Neglected relationships

The focus shifts away from the relationship and towards the tasks of caregiving, which can leave caregivers feeling neglected and isolated. As caregivers manage the decreasing resources of time, energy, and finances often associated with chronic illness, their social relations with other family members and friends may also be neglected. This sense of an unbalanced relationship can be particularly profound when the care partner experiences significant cognitive impairment.

Thus, caregiver stress is not something burdening for a short period of time. Instead, it impacts the caregiver negatively, and the family as a support system must find ways to support the caregivers in their family.

Ways to support caregivers

Family members may offer emotional support, providing them with additional helping hands and staying connected with them. Here are three ways to show caregiver support: 

Give emotional support

Being a caregiver is tough and can make one feel really down and anxious. However, family members can be a great help by providing emotional support. This means creating a safe and understanding environment for caregivers to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

Family members can offer emotional support in many ways, such as by listening actively and reassuring the caregiver that their emotions are valid. Caregivers also need to feel heard and understood, and family members can offer encouragement and support. Emotional support can also be in the form of professional counseling or therapy or providing access to helpful resources to reduce the caregiver’s stress levels.

Be an additional helping hand 

Caring for someone can be challenging, especially if one has no experience doing it. Caregivers often have to learn on the fly, which can make things even more stressful. To make things worse, they often have to juggle other responsibilities like work, taking care of kids, and household chores, on top of being the sole caregiver.

To help ease the burden for caregivers, it is important to brainstorm ways to provide them with some relief regarding household tasks. This might include hiring someone to help out or getting other family members and friends to pitch in. Another way to help is to connect caregivers with useful skills and information through national societies or associations so they do not have to learn everything independently.

Stay connected with caregivers

Staying connected with family caregivers is crucial for ensuring they feel supported and not alone in their caregiving journey. Caregivers benefit greatly from connecting with others who are in similar situations, as it helps them feel understood and provides an opportunity to learn from one another. 

Thus, ensuring the caregivers maintain other essential relationships, such as with children, family members, and close friends, is also important. These relationships can offer emotional support and provide a much-needed break from caregiving demands. They must prioritize and make time for these relationships, even when caregiving duties seem overwhelming. 

In conclusion

Caregiving is challenging and can be emotionally draining for caregivers. They need help and resources to lighten their load. And the role of family members is crucial in providing this much-needed support. When everyone prioritizes the needs of caregivers, it creates a family system that is caring and supportive for all. 

Additionally, providing caregivers with the necessary resources can make all the difference in their caregiving journey because they work diligently to help our family members live more comfortably. Caregivers deserve to be appreciated and supported.

If you would like to see more resources on caregiving, check out the Family Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Check out the Family Science Labs today.

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