Sleep problems, stress, anxiety, frustration and depression are common emotions we caregiver's experience. But there are also many positive aspects of caring (PAC) to the role you provide. In one study it was found that 51% of spouses and 66% of adult offspring reported either a ‘great deal' or ‘quite a lot' of satisfaction. Another study found 73% of caregivers were able to generate 1 or more PAC factors such as satisfaction with caring, feeling fulfilled or important, finding a sense of companionship and meaning within the relationship.
Caregivers do such a valuable job. Nearly two thirds of people with dementia live at home and the time, on average, between diagnosis and the need for nursing care is about seven years. That is a lot of time in which you provide them with emotional support and give increasingly higher levels of assistance with activities of daily living.
Caregivers prevent early institutional care. People with dementia who live alone are 20 times more likely to move into residential or nursing care that those living with a family member.
As you would expect, caregivers who felt a sense of satisfaction with their role have been shown to experience less incidence of depression and better subjective health.
Race and cultural factors would also seem to have an influence on the positive aspects of caring. African Americans scored higher on PAC than white Americans and that seems to be, in part, mediated by religiosity.
But as we all know life is not always smooth. The caregiving role and our feelings about it do change over time. Stressors increase as the health of a loved one deteriorates and the number of hours we have to dedicate to the role surpasses what we are physically and emotionally able to do.
Seeking support from other agencies is often the answer. It has been shown that by introducing new services for people with Alzheimer's to meet needs, they not only reduce the number of unmet needs, they enable the family to continue caring for longer. Good social service and health care planning in advance can lift the distressed caregiver and successful interventions mean the caregiver and the care recipient benefit. Studies have shown that the well-being of one partner influences the well-being of the other and that the coping strategies of one partner influence the adjustment of the other.
Your local Alzheimer's Association, your doctor and Social Services, other family members can help you offer a package of care where you continue to feel valued and your loved one gets to stay at home for the longest time possible. Well done, you should give yourself a very big pat on the back.
Published On: September 12, 2011