Why Caregiver Health Matters
While professional caregivers certainly exist, the majority of people who shoulder the responsibility of taking care of someone else do so out of familial or personal obligations, with little or no compensation, as informal caregivers.
In many countries in Asia, the family unit is the primary long-term caregiver and an important resource for persons with specific needs, whether that is physical or mental disability, chronic diseases or age. With life expectancy rising due to improved healthcare systems and increased investment in healthcare, there is an expected increased reliance on both professional and informal caregiving services to support the expanding elderly population for years to come.
Since 2020, there has also been the additional pressure from the streamlining of resources to accommodate the influx of Covid-19 patients and the suspension of “non-essential” services including senior activity centers, dementia daycare centers, and outreach rehabilitation programs. As a result, many patients are experiencing a severe disruption in their usual care and more and more people are finding themselves stepping into the role of caregiver for the first time and providing longer hours of caregiving due to decreased psychosocial support from more structured or professional services.
Caregiver burden is defined as the all-encompassing challenges felt by caregivers with respect to their physical and emotional well-being, family relations, and work and financial status. While caregiving, more often than not, stems from a place of selflessness, the toll it takes on the caregiver cannot be underestimated. The hours are long and sometimes indefinite, and a caregiver’s responsibilities put a strain on them both physically and mentally.
Without proper care or attention to their own wellbeing, caregivers run the risk of burnout (a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion) in the long term, with more and more caregivers reporting depression, anxiety, and elevated stress. Coupled with the fact that most care recipients are those who are more susceptible to Covid-19, i.e. those who are immunocompromised and the elderly, paranoia and anxiety levels within caregivers are only skyrocketing.
Considering the mounting pressures on caregivers, their health and well-being have become a major concern, requiring more attention from healthcare professionals, policymakers and peers.
Care for Caregivers
Despite the negative effects of long-term caregiving, many can be alleviated partially through:
- Caregiver education and support programs run by local organisations and support groups.
- Delegating caregiving duties to other family members or looking into respite care* provided by professional caregiving services to reduce the burden.
- Consulting with a professional about any questions and concerns regarding treatment for the person being cared for, as well as advice on caregiver health and how to take better care of themselves.
- Financial support to alleviate the economic stress of caregiving.
- Early intervention screening for caregivers.
It is important to recognise the physical and psychological signs of caregiving burden and to take swift action once these symptoms arise. While it is easy to get swept away by the pressing need to provide constant care, it is important for caregivers to remember that the state of their health will also affect the quality of care they are able to provide. Taking care of both their individual needs and the person being cared for isn’t an easy balancing act, but it is one that is necessary.
The Naluri app also offers its members access to a team of health and wellness coaches that are dedicated to helping you address any mental or physical concerns that you may have, 24/7. To get started, register now at naluri.life.
*An example of a care service provider with respite care services is Homage, an organisation that works with care recipients with a range of mobility and medical conditions.
- Written by:
- Asma' Jailani
- 28 January 2021