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The Caregiving Burden

Family caregivers often have to make huge sacrifices to be able to take care of a spouse or relative in need. These sacrifices most commonly involve missed time at work, less time to spend with the rest of their family and friends, and fewer hours for themselves. Over time, these daily sacrifices can leave the caregiver feeling both physically and emotionally drained. Recognizing the caregiving “burden” for what it truly is can help a caregiver take the necessary steps to prevent burnout.

A 2009 study entitled “Caregiving in the U.S. A Focused Look at Those Caring for Someone Age 50 and Older” by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP actually sought to define and measure the “burden” placed on family caregivers by looking at the amount of time they spent providing care each week in combination with the type of daily activities they assist with. According to this study, nearly one-third of caregivers are in a high-burden situation, with caregivers 65 years and older being most likely to have a high burden. This same study found that over 50% of caregivers say that the emotional stress of caregiving is moderate to high. Those who are in a high burden care situation are the most likely to report a high level of emotional stress. Those caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease typically fall in the high burden/high emotional stress category as well.

The fact that many people feel forced into caregiving due to lack of options makes the burden feel that much greater. Take steps to ease the burden before it becomes more than you can bear. Connecting with support groups and other caregivers in your situation either in person or on the internet can be an outlet for your emotional stress. Just knowing other people are going through the same thing you are can buoy your spirit through a shared sense of camaraderie. Need other suggestions for maintaining your sanity? Ask family and friends for help, hire a professional caregiver from a trusted company like Home Care Plus to give you much needed breaks during the week, maintain an exercise routine, go on vacation—taking care of yourself is as important to being a good caregiver as anything else you do to help your loved one.

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