November is Family Caregivers Month
The Caregiving Experience
No two are the same
Caregiving affects family caregivers differently depending on to whom they provide care and where they are in their own lives. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 3.9 million U.S. caregivers provide care for only children, 48.9 million care for only adults and 12.9 million care for both child and adult recipients. Young caregivers may have to postpone their education to care for a family member, whereas, mid-life women in the labor force who begin caregiving often stop working to care for their family member.
Caregiving demands also differ depending on the situation. For example, caregiving can be much more difficult in higher demand situations such as when a child has a developmental disability, caring for a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or when a parent has dementia. Significant or long term strain is often referred to as “caregiver burden.” Caregiving strain is often more significant in circumstances where caregivers do not have enough resources (information, skills, social support, respite, and community services) and feel overwhelmed.
Balance is important but often difficult to achieve
Being a family caregiver requires a balance of caring for yourself and the one that you are caring for. It is important that you take time to reflect about your own physical and psychological health.
Caregivers who experience higher levels of strain:
- May get sick easier.
- Take more time to recover from an illness.
- Feel fatigued.
As a family caregiver it is important to:
- Balance caring for yourself and your loved one.
- Take time to think about your own physical and psychological health.
- Identify when you are beginning to feel overburdened.
- Seek help and support when you need it.
- Embrace the positive aspects of caregiving.
When experiencing caregiver burden, feelings of distress and depression can also occur. A decline in caregiver’s health can impact the care recipient’s health as well. Care recipients can be at a greater risk for experiencing declines in functional abilities (e.g. difficulties with physical mobility) and being institutionalized when caregivers experience problems with depression and lack effective coping styles.
Positive Aspects of Caregiving
Caregiving isn’t always dampened with feelings of burden and distress. There are many benefits to being a caregiver.
Surprise! Caregiving Helps the Caregiver, Too
Psychology Benefits Society
Positive benefits of caregiving and psychological and social resources for caregivers.
Positive Aspects of Caregiving
APA Family Caregiver Briefcase
Caregivers who perceive more benefits from caregiving report lower levels of depression.
How are you doing?
Now that you are aware of the variety of caregiving situations and responses of caregivers, take a moment to think about how you are feeling. Complete one or more of these brief, self-scoring questionnaires to determine how you are doing.
- Caregiving Self-Assessment (PDF, 60.53KB)
- Auto-evalución de cuidadores (Spanish version) (PDF, 108KB)
If you are feeling overwhelmed, please check out our Taking Care of You section for self-care tips and resources that can help.
This article was reprinted with permission by the American Psychological Association (APA).