There is no doubt that being a caregiver to an older loved one can be a positive and rewarding experience and it may be a way to give back. But the caregiving demands can become onerous, and the caregiver can feel stretched between their obligations to their own children and their partners. Or the day job can be demanding in and of itself without the “extra shift” that caregiving heaps on a person. As a certified geriatric care manager, I have seen caregivers who are stressed, but not nearly as often do I see a caregiver who talks about this burden.
It brings up too much guilt, or they feel they just need to “get through” the next week or month, but the weight of the added responsibilities can be huge to the point of breaking. It is important to find relief before the caregiver reaches that point, and there is a way to measure caregiver burden before one reaches a breaking point. Consider the following and rate each on a scale where 0=never, 1=rarely, 2=sometimes, 3=quite frequently and 4=nearly always – be honest:
- He/she needs my help to perform many daily tasks.
- He/she is dependent on me.
- I have to watch him/her constantly.
- I have to help him/her with many basic functions.
- I don’t have a minute’s break from his/her chores.
- I feel that I am missing out on life.
- I wish I could escape from this situation.
- My social life has suffered.
- I feel emotionally drained due to caring for him/her.
- I expected that things would be different at this point in my life.
- I’m not getting enough sleep.
- My health has suffered.
- Caregiving has made me physically sick.
- I’m physically tired.
- I don’t get along with other family members as well as I used to.
- My caregiving efforts aren’t appreciated by others in my family.
- I’ve had problems with my marriage (or other significant relationship).
- I don’t get along as well as I used to with others.
- I feel resentful of other relatives who could but do not help.
- I feel embarrassed over his/her behavior.
- I feel ashamed of him/her.
- I resent him/her.
- I feel uncomfortable when I have friends over.
- I feel angry about my interactions with him/her.
Add up your score, and if you are close to or above a 36, it is time to consider help. At least consider help with some of the supportive activities you do for your loved one. You will find senior residential communities or centers who provide respite care to give you the break you may need. Also, look to what you rated “quite frequently” or “nearly always.” If you have a cleric, a counselor or therapist, these may be good points for your conversation. Also, do a search of my blog here using the keyword, “caregiver.” One of the topics I have addressed a lot is Caring for the Caregiver. Take care of you! For more on this scale (and there are others as well) go to: http://www.fullcirclecare.org/caregiverissues/health/burden.html
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.