A care giver is an individual who takes responsibility for someone who cannot take care for themselves on their own. The caregiver can be a family member, a friend, a trained professional or any other person. In the case of family members and friends, they care for an ailing loved one without any reimbursement or monetary returns, as opposed to a trained professional like a nurse. Caring for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, which can enhance a range of positive emotions like happiness and satisfaction. Researches claim that family members who act as care givers often report positive emotions, like a sense of giving back to someone who cared for them, it can also provide meaning and a sense of purpose to the care giver.
Many caregivers experience both positive experiences and some strain simultaneously (Beach et al., 2000). Even while caregiving can be rewarding, there is no denying that it can be very stressful and emotionally overwhelming for the care giver to handle this responsibility. As often care giving can be a long term or lifelong responsibility, the physical health and psychological impacts can snowball over time.
The detrimental physical effects of caregiving are generally less intensive than the psychological effects. Although relatively few studies have focused on the association between caregiving and health habits, researchers have found evidence of impaired health behaviours, such as neglecting their own health care appointments and eating a poor-quality diet. Measures of psychological well-being such as depression and stress, have been the most frequently studied consequences of caregiving. Older caregivers, people of low socioeconomic status, and those with limited support networks report poorer psychological and physical health than caregivers who are younger and have more economic and interpersonal resources (Schulz, Sherwood, 2008).
In a lot of cultures, caregiving responsibilities traditionally fall on women, as they are expected to stay at home and take care of all family members, thus dealing with care giver stress is an important part of women’s healthcare. Most women have more work in addition to their care giving responsibilities, some of them have jobs or children and other family members to take care of. The day- to- day tasks they perform for a loved one are often piled up on top of a busy schedule, which can induce overwhelming and stressful feelings of being pulled in many directions or feeling overburdened. Holding on to a job while being a caregiver is tough and can also lead to a burnout. Research has shown that caregivers who are women are less likely to be part of the labour force, as compared to other women who do not such additional responsibilities. On the contrary, for men caregiving has no impact on their employment, this also highlights the gendered nature of care giving.
It is important to recognize the value of caregivers, the challenges that come along with this responsibility, and the impact it has on their physical and emotional well- being. At a structural level, it is essential to provide social and community support to care givers. Joining a support group, can provide a safe space to interact with other fellow caregivers and express one’s emotions, as well as learn to cope up with feelings of stress, frustration, resentment, etc. In the same way, taking some time off or taking some time out for self- care can also help in alleviating stress and burden.
Caring for others doesn’t have to come at the cost of one’s own health and well- being. Only when one feels emotionally and physically healthy, can they be there for someone else.
The role of the caregiver: what does it mean for your health? Northwest Primary Care blog. Retrieved from- https://www.nwpc.com/the-role-of-the-caregiver-what-does-it-mean-for-your-health/
Schulz, R., & Sherwood, P. R. (2008). Physical and mental health effects of family caregiving. The American journal of nursing, 108(9 Suppl), 23–27. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000336406.45248.4c
Russell, B.S., Hutchison, M., Tambling, R. et al. Initial Challenges of Caregiving During COVID-19: Caregiver Burden, Mental Health, and the Parent–Child Relationship. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 51, 671–682 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-020-01037
Beach, S. R., Schulz, R., Yee, J. L., & Jackson, S. (2000). Negative and positive health effects of caring for a disabled spouse: Longitudinal findings from the Caregiver Health Effects Study. Psychology & Aging, 15(2), 259-271. doi:10.1037//0882-79220.127.116.119