Caregiving is hard, relentless work and unpaid! Yet there are estimated to be almost 43.5 million unpaid caregivers in the United States, taking care of a relative/loved one and nearly a quarter of them have suffered health problems under its strain.
As expected those who put in long hours in taking care of a loved one, are prone to experience emotional and physical stress, health and financial strains compared to the general population.
Thus in consideration of the importance of caregivers, in 1993 President Bill Clinton and the US Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which offers some relief in the form of protected leave from work to take care of a loved one. Moreover, in recent years almost half of the states have approved AARP-developed legislation that requires hospitals to provide training in essential medical tasks for those caring for a relative newly released from a hospital.
However, for many years, social scientists have been pondering over the question of why certain caregivers perform well under stress while others struggle. People can think of tending to a loved one as a trial or blessing. In actuality, it is both. According to social scientists, the perception of the burden is subjective and depends more on the individual’s beliefs, relationships and culture than on the weight of day-to-day duties.
Thus, the relationship between care partners (caregivers and care recipients) can be hostile, loving or ambivalent. However it is proven that greater the emotional closeness between spouse/spouse or child/parent partners exists, the better will be the care provided to the care recipient by the caregiver.
In 2014, a study published in the Journal Of Family Nursing, the researchers documented that men generally feel less burden than women when it comes to caregiving of a loved one. Overall, as people see caregiving more of a woman’s duty than of a man’s, therefore it contributes to a female’s reluctance to use care services so when they do enroll for outside help, they feel less satisfied and less in control of care of their loved one compared to men. As a result, women have been known to fare worse and suffer more emotionally psychological, health-wise and financially in the care of a loved one especially when it comes to wives. On the other hand, men are better at asking for help and can receive support without feeling that they have failed their loved one, or been displaced by paid service providers such as adult day care providers or home health aides.
In this process, the social scientists have identified certain strategies that can help the caregivers manage the burdens and maximize the rewards of their role.
- Acquire as much medical knowledge as you can as a caregiver concerning the care recipient’s condition and your own well being: Since a caregiver has a better connection with the care-recipient, compared to a physician-patient relationship, therefore it is very important for a caregiver to handle/manage frightening symptoms and maintain a sense of mastery or composure when a physician is not around and the care recipient needs help.
- Do not take it personally: Reappraise your mindset to accommodate for the care recipient’s frequent, inconsistent, stressful tirades and not to think of them as disrespectful. Please note that the care-recipient is way more confused and frustrated with his/her consistent worsening condition than you can think of.
- Focus on boosting rewards: Research has defined that if caregivers do things with their care-recipient that they used to enjoy together during healthy days like walks in the park, eating out, dancing to oldies etc. that would lift their moods then they should do them together. It will have an uplifting experience for them both and reinforce their closeness in a relationship.
- Form Social groups: Caregivers need counseling, support, and appreciation. They are on a roller coaster ride of an emotional drain. They need psychological help and motivation frequently. Research has proven that support groups provide emotional stability, personal growth and reduced isolation to caregivers. Therefore it is important for the caregivers to establish or attend individual and family sessions that heighten support from a caregiver’s social network whether it comes from their own siblings, church members or old friends.
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Health Contributor, eParisExtra.com