A caregiver provides care to a person who is handicapped or incapable of performing routine activities by themselves. A person receiving care can be anyone who has undergone an accident, stroke or surgery or is suffering from chronic ailments. Sometimes the family members act as caregivers. These are called informal caregivers, who do not accept money for caregiving. A formal caregiver is a paid care provider or volunteer who is registered with a social system.
Although the caregivers are doing a virtuous job, this tumultuous task may affect their health adversely. Sometimes, this stressful monotonous job affects their psychological, physical and social life. Their quality of life declines rapidly, and it can create a huge strain on their physical, emotional and mental health. Studies have found out caregiving is associated with anxiety, distress, stress and depression.
There are some positive impacts too. The caregiver gets delighted with the appreciation provided by the patient, resilience development, sense of accomplishment and self-worth. But then it all depends on the house they are hired in. If the atmosphere in the house is cheerful, the caregiver might feel good. But if the atmosphere around is negative, it adds to the misery. Also, it depends on the nature of the caregiver too. Let’s find out how this job affects the caregiver’s life in detail!
Caregiver’s Physical Dimensions of Health
Caregiver’s who provide physical support to the patients, like grooming, bathing and other personal care routines, are more affected by physical conditions. Sometimes, the caregivers themselves have to take medication to turn up for work each morning.
- Caregivers report that they suffer from physical ailments like headaches, body pain, acid reflux etc., quite often. They have also become obese because of the nature of their job.
- They also say that their immune response has taken a backseat. Since they always remain under stress, the immune system gets a hit, and such people attract infections. It also results in slow wound healing.
- Constantly helping the patient stand, sit and sleep takes a toll on the caregiver’s physical health. The excessive strength they use to lift the patient is bad for their health. In such scenarios, the caregiver gets physically strained.
- Many caregivers report chronic health conditions like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and heart diseases/attack.
- Due to increased stress and strain, there are high chances that the caregiver develops cardiovascular syndromes like heart disease or high blood pressure or poor heart health.
- Women caring for their spouses report high cholesterol, heart diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure cases.
Caregiver’s Mental & Emotional Aspects of Health
More than physical issues, caregivers report mental and emotional health issues. These are more common in informal caregivers. Here are some major problems reported:
- A study shows that 40-70% of caregivers report symptoms of depression. And more than half of them are diagnosed with it.
- If these confirmed cases of depressive caregivers keep their loved ones in a nursing home, they become even more depressive.
- Depressed caregivers are usually diagnosed with other anxiety disorders as well. Such multiple mental issue cases are prone to suicidal thoughts as well.
- Sometimes the patient is under huge suffering and is prone to say anything that might hurt. Such scenarios are depressing for the caregiver. It is because the caregiver is giving his 100% to make the patient comfortable, but the patient is never satisfied due to their misery.
- It has been observed that depression in caregivers is reported by the ones who are caring for a patient with reduced functional and cognitive health. Generally, the caregivers who look after a dementia patient report depression.
- Some caregivers complain of high-stress levels. They also say they feel angry, frustrated, drained, helpless or guilty as caregivers.
- Many caregivers feel exhausted at the end of the day. Some also have a constant feeling that they cannot continue anymore.
- Sometimes the caregiving job makes them feel like they are losing their self-identity, and their self-esteem takes a toll.
- Few caregivers describe feeling a lot of emotional strain throughout the day. Sometimes the caregivers also lose hope when they see nil progress in the patient.
- In case of chronic stress, there are chances of bigger mental health issues like short-term memory, loss of verbal IQ and attention.
The bottom line is that no matter how knowledgeable the caregiver is, mental health awareness is lacking. It is high time that we educate people that mental sickness is also one of the health issues. We should educate people to consult a doctor if the situation is going out of control.
How does Self-Care Decline with Caregiving?
Caregivers have a major issue; even though they know everything about health issues, they won’t complain until the situation goes out of hand. And the problems are generated because of the following reasons:
- They do not alarm at the right time.
- They do not engage themselves in preventive or national health programs.
- Caregivers who give care to their respective spouses have reported smoking in large numbers. They also do depressed eating. They eat more than required because they say it is the only thing that brings happiness to them.
- Many caregivers accept that they do not take a doctor’s help as they should. Many caregivers don’t even book appointments, and some miss them.
- Some poor fellows do not have enough time and energy to cook meals or exercise. That is why their health declines rapidly.
- Caregivers in rural areas suffer a lot more than their urban counterparts. It is because, even if they are willing to consult a doctor, they don’t have it nearby!
Beyond Physical & Mental Issues
For some, the potential negative effects extend beyond physical and mental illnesses. Some young caregivers experience distraction while studying, and sometimes they even pause or drop out completely.
Positive Aspects of Caregiving
Not only negatives, but some caregivers also report some positive aspects of caregiving. These are:
- They feel a sense of worthiness.
- Some informal caregivers feel they can give back to someone and are available to them in times of need. They also feel satisfied that their loved one is under proper care and support.
- Few caregivers feel that their children are seeing them care for their elders. This might imbibe in the kids a sense of responsibility towards them.
- Most positive aspects are attached to the habit of finding good in everything. Not all people are capable of doing so. People who can find good in everything will bring out scenarios to keep themselves happy. They value their mental health over everything. Getting such a gleeful caregiver keeps the patient in utmost comfort.
- Other positive effects include gratitude, personal growth, finding purpose in life and many other benefits.
The caregiving job is challenging each day, and it is just the will and strength of the caregiver that keeps it going. We hope that now you understand the plight of a caregiver and what health issues they go through due to their job. Also, it is important to keep a check on our health status by going for regular health screening. You never know what disease is growing inside us.
What is health and the importance of health?
Health is overall well-being that is mental, physical and social. It is maintaining the body and taking actions to minimise the disease’s chances. As they say, health is wealth. So, one cannot negate its benefits. Being healthy makes you feel happy and active, and you can enjoy life on your terms.
How can physical health be improved?
Switch to healthy habits:
- Choose healthy food over junk
- Consume minimum alcohol, if at all you do
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress
- Sleep for eight hours a day. You might start to get bored with this routine but try hard to maintain this lifestyle
What is emotional health?
Emotional health does not mean that you have to remain happy all the time. But it is how you feel, think and react to activities around you. It is the way we perceive things. Also, the sense of well-being. Our capability to cope with the challenges in life. The way we acknowledge our and others’ emotions too. For example, you’ll be emotionally healthy if you can control your feelings, thoughts and behaviour. You’ll accept yourself in your skin and will build good relationships.
What are the characteristics of health?
A healthy person will have a normal weight. By normal weight, we mean an appropriate BMI. Secondly, you will have good flexibility. By flexibility, we mean the emotional one. You’ll be able to adjust in any situation.
And regarding physical flexibility, you’ll be flexible if you maintain a healthy weight. Thirdly, you will notice that healthy people glow. They will have flawless skin. It doesn’t mean your skin should be perfect for making you look healthy. But it will show if you are suffering from something. Fourthly, your eyes say it all. A healthy person will have clear radiant eyes. Next is your body language. The way you talk and walk and whether you sit or stand upright. You should not slouch. A healthy person can be seen from a distance by body language. And lastly, embrace healthy habits. Eat only when hungry. Drink lots of water. Abstain from smoking, excessive drinking and consuming drugs.
What is good mental health?
Good mental health is a condition when you can handle major activities and functions. These activities allow you to feel, learn and manage negative and positive emotions. It also includes your ability to form and foster good relations with people around you.
What are the three most important values in your life?
The three core values you can hold in life are love, wisdom and performance. Love is the greatest virtue anybody can have, and the truest relationships are built on love. Next, by wisdom, we mean knowledge and character. Knowledge means your judgement of truth and the ability to accept the truth. And character stands for your integrity. Performance is your ability to perform even under pressure and against all odds.
What are the types of health?
There are eight personal dimensions of health, namely, social, physical, financial, environmental, occupational, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. All these are interrelated, and problem in any vertical starts to impact it all.
What is intellectual health?
After some age, our elders become adamant about their thoughts and beliefs. They resist change and are not open to new ideas and opinions. A person is intellectually healthy if they are open to new experiences and ideas. They have an urge to improve skills, learn new things, increase understanding and continuously challenge themselves.
What is cognitive health?
It is the ability to learn, think and remember life events, and it is a very important component of health that lets you perform daily activities appropriately.
How can I change my negative lifestyle?
Here are ways to change your negative lifestyle:
- Find out the unhealthy habits you want to change.
- Be committed to the change.
- Remove things that trigger you, like social media, alcohol, or cigarette. Whatever holds in your case.
- Give yourself time. Don’t expect fast results as those habits have developed over the years.
- Set the goal, plan it nicely and steadily reach the goal.