CaregiverFacts about Caregivers:
- There are at least 8.1 million (28%) Canadians that provide care for a loved one with a long term health condition. (Stats Canada 2013)
- 54% of caregivers are women, 46% are men
- 1 in 4 caregivers are a part of the sandwich generation (they are caring for a loved one with a health condition, child rearing, and working).
- 50% of caregivers are aged 45-65, which are usually peak earning years at their workplace.
- 6.1 million (35%) employed Canadians, or 35% of Canada’s workforce, are family caregivers. All employers can expect to have employees who will assume caregiving responsibilities which will have an impact on the employment relationship.
- In 2012, 1.6 million caregivers took leave from work, nearly 600,000 reduced their work hours, 160,000 turned down paid employment, and 390,000 had quit their jobs in order to provide care. This is equivalent to $1.3 billion in lost productivity per year.
Common Caregiver Stressors:
- Financial stressors (e.g., decrease or loss of employment)
- Time management (e.g., having to take care of your loved one while maintaining one’s own household/family demands)
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness (e.g., feeling inadequately prepared to care for someone with a brain health condition)
- Lack of communication between the health care team and the caregiver
- Feeling tired, stressed, overwhelmed, denial, depression, anxiety etc.
- Role and relationship changes in the family system
- Understanding changes in the one you are caring for
- Understanding the medical care system
- Neglecting your own needs to take care of others. This is something many caregivers do but it often causes personal health issues and concerns for them.
Caregiver Stress and Burnout:
Caring for a loved one can come with many rewards, but it also involved many life changes and added demands for the caregiver and their families. Too much extra work and stress can lead to what is called Caregiver Burnout which is a state of physical, psychological, and mental exhaustion that has occurred as a result of excessive stress in relation to caring for a loved one. A caregiver’s life changes often in significant ways when they step up to that position, and everyone is impacted differently. Once you burnout, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for you or the person you are caring or. It is important to be aware of the common signs and symptoms of burnout so you can the necessary steps to prevent burnout. If you already are burned out, being able to identify the signs and symptoms is the first step to dealing with the issue.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress:
- Feeling tired or run down
- Trouble sleeping
- Anxiety or depression
- Overreacting to minor things
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased substance use
- Increased or decreased eating habits
- Experiencing new or worsening health problems
- Neglecting responsibilities
Common Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout:
- Your energy has significantly decreased than before you became a caregiver
- You get physically sick more than usual (e.g., flus and colds)
- Doing little tasks event after taking a nap or sleeping are tiring for you (e.g., cooking dinner, going to the grocery store)
- Your irritability increases with the person you care for
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- You are neglecting your own need (e.g., not taking a break or time for yourself)
Some personal assessments are available for caregivers who are wondering if they are stressed, burning or burnt out.
Feeling a Sense of Loss:
You may experience something knows as Dual Process Theory. Loss orientation (coping with issues that are directly related to the loss. e.g., feeling lonely, helpless, sad), and restoration orientation which refers to coping with issues related to secondary changes that occur as a result of the loss/new caregiving roll and adapting to those issues. E.g., financial, employment status changes, family demands etc.) Caregivers often bounce back and forth between loss orientation and restoration orientation. Feeling a sense of loss is okay and important to deal with appropriately.
Practicing Self-Care and Caregiving
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is a necessary component to your overall wellbeing. Self-care consists of any action or activity that you participate in that provides intentional physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual health. Everyone should make the time to practice self-care which can be exercising, writing, baking, anything that you enjoy, and that will benefit your overall wellbeing.
Tips for Maintaining Self-Care While Caregiving in Order to Prevent Caregiver Stress and Burnout:
- Give yourself a break when you need it. It is important to not overexert yourself and put your own health at risk which caring for someone else. By taking a break, this will benefit both you and the person you are caring for as you will be more energized and able to care for them, while also caring for yourself.
- Putting yourself first is essential to both your wellbeing and the person that you are caring for. It is unhealthy to care for someone if you are neglecting your own needs.
- Testing what self-care works best for you. Self-care is different for everyone so you need to try different activities out until you find something that gives you true enjoyment. Don’t give up on looking for new ideas to try, even if you already have some hobbies that provide you with self-care. Who knows you might discover a new passion for something that you didn’t know you had!
- It is okay to ask for help. Asking for help shows strength even if you are feeling weak.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Being vulnerable is okay, you simply cannot do everything for people. Try making a to do list, or completing one thing at a time.
- Join a support group. Joining in a community, whether it is online or in your hometown can be beneficial for you. It is nice to know you are not the only one out there experiencing struggles and often talking to people who are in similar situations or know how to manage those stressors can be a huge help to decreasing your stress.
- Laughter, it goes a long way! Try watching a comedy, a funny novel or talking to friends.