RX For The Caregiver
By Janet Listokin, M.A., C.T.R.S.
Do caregivers experience physical and emotional stress? Do they have special needs, which are to be addressed so that they can perform effectively? Are there ways caregivers can, and must, take care of themselves? “Quality of Life,” most often, is discussed in terms of the individual requiring the care. However, it must also be experienced by the caregiver.
There are many individuals who require care at home or in long-term facilities – children and adults who are developmentally disabled, those with physical disabilities and individuals with cognitive impairments. Care is shouldered by family members and/or professional caregivers and, depending on the individuals’ needs, may include minimal assistance during the day to total dependency 24 hours, seven days a week. Such demand places a tremendous burden on the caregiver, which may result in some or all of the following emotions: sadness, physical pain, anger, frustration, hopelessness, despair, isolation, sleep and appetite difficulties, anxiety, low energy and depressed mood.
For caregivers employed at large facilities, the stress of caring for many medically and/or mentally compromised patients/residents can be overwhelming. Though there are scheduled break times, the caregiver is assigned several tasks which must be completed by a certain time as not to interfere with the natural rhythm of life. With the shortage of skilled professionals within the nursing field, caregivers are often asked to “float” to other units and assume additional responsibilities.
The professional caregiver who works in the home may have additional responsibilities as compared to those working in facilities. They may include physical care without appropriate assistive devices, cooking, escorting the individual into the community, providing recreational interests, etc. All these tasks are to be accomplished without the support and camaraderie of other personnel.
The part-time or full-time family caregiver bears the heaviest of burdens, assuming the role without any formal training/education. Adding an additional layer of emotional stress is the caregiver’s realization that the individual who now needs their care is not the child they had envisioned once upon a time or the adult they remember fondly from their own childhood. This illustrates the proverbial reversal of roles from care recipient to care provider.
Which is your lifestyle? The professional caregiver who returns home from work to again assume a caregiving role with children, parents, relatives, spouse, etc.? Or the family caregiver, upon a similar return from work immediately assumes the responsibility just vacated by the professional caregiver? Or lastly, the full-time family primary caregiver who has assumed all responsibilities all of the time? Whichever role, the continuous stress and non-stop responsibility can lead to burnout and affects job performance. Caregivers need to set aside time to relax and pursue leisure interests.