Utah Family Voices

Utah Family Voices


Caring for the Caregiver

PDF Version

How can caring for a family member with a chronic condition affect me and how can I avoid negative effects?

Taking care of someone that requires long term and critical care can be very difficult for the person giving the care.  It has been documented that there is an increase in alcohol, drugs and smoking in caregivers.  A study that was conducted showed that 10 percent more people were divorced when they had a child or parent they had to care for.  The positive news is that there are things that can be done to avoid negative effects.

Evaluate the needs of the person you are caring for. Examples of questions to ask include: “What are the needs of the person?”  “Do they need bathing?”  “Can they walk or eat by themselves?”  Once you determine their needs, it is time to mark the ones you can help with and how often.

Evaluate your own needs.

  • In what areas do you need help?
  • What resources are there to help you?  Don’t forget community, friends, family and religious affiliations.  Write down any names of people who have offered to help with anything.
  • Make a list of the things that people can help with so when they ask you are ready with some ideas that could really help.  (e.g. cook a meal, come stay with your family member for a couple of hours, read to them while you take a much needed nap, etc.)
  • Type out all the medicines and daily, weekly and monthly activities for your family member.  This way you can take it to all of the doctor appointments and you won’t have to repeat it each time.
  • Set goals that you need to accomplish in order to make things work for you.  Break the goals down into small tasks that can be achieved in a very short time.  Sometimes we look at the bigger goals and it is too overwhelming and it doesn’t seem we can ever do it.  By breaking it down, we can do small things until the goal is completely met.

How can I take care of myself and reduce stress?
Studies have shown that caregivers have about a 60% increase on being treated for depression.  It seems that while taking care of the others, we forget to take care of ourselves in the process.  It is extremely important to take care of ourselves so we can take care of them.  Things that have been proven to reduce stress are exercise, eating healthy, getting enough rest, getting informed, journaling, respite and keeping active socially.

You are responsible for YOUR care first.  It is a very important part of the job.  It is not selfish to take care of your needs or desires, it is essential.  Be sure to look at all the things you can do and are doing.  “I can walk for 15 minutes” or “I can do emails while my family member is sleeping”, etc.

Remember: it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver – it’s an important part of the job.  You are responsible for your care first.

The selected titles and links below will guide you to some key resources and references.

Full Circle of Care
Stress.  This six letter word can be worse than any four letter word you have ever heard.  Stress can affect your health and keep you from providing the best care for your family member.  So, what do you do to keep healthy when there are so many stressful issues related to caring for the one you love?

Caring for the Caregiver: Promoting Your Own Well-Being
There is no doubt that caregiving, even in the best of circumstances, is stressful.  Stress, however, in and of itself is not bad, it is how we respond to it that can challenge our well-being.  What then is well-being and how can it be supported? On this website, you can learn more about your own well-being and what you can do to ensure that it is being supported.

PBS.org “& Thou Shalt Honor”
Taking on the responsibility of caregiving is a uniquely challenging experience.  The rewards and good feelings of spending more time with a loved one in need can be compromised by the time, planning, coordination, financial commitment and physical rigors that are commonly required.  Often lost in the act of giving care is the health and well-being of the caregiver.  This website includes resources and forums for caregivers, the cared for and professionals that help them.