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The Burdens of Caregiving

Caregiving for the ill or elderly can take a toll on the whole family, more specifically the primary caregiver. A caregiver is the person who supports and helps a person in need of care regularly and continuously, because of personal – not professional – reasons. In this article, we will briefly address three of the five types of burdens that may occur with caregiving.

Physical burden.
Caregiving is mainly a physical activity, which takes a toll on the caregiver ranging from minor to severe or debilitating health issues. These burdens are often linked to the level of activity of the task. From handling the simple activities of daily living (shopping, driving, food preparation, laundry, housekeeping, etc.), to more involved tasks of personal care. These include bathing, toileting (including incontinence issues), dressing, lifting with transferring of the one being cared for, and ambulation. The caregiver has the physical burden of performing these duties in addition to the daily duties of their own personal life, which can quickly become taxing.

Psychological burden.
Caregiving can take a toll on the psyche of the caregiver, because caring is a serious ordeal. In 2003 Pinquart and Sörensen researched the health of caregivers compared to not caregiving relatives. Regarding psychological health status, there was a clear difference, where caregivers reported significantly more often depressive symptoms than not caregiving relatives. Watching a loved one decline in health, physical, mental and even spiritual vitality can be a challenging thing. Additionally, the family dynamics and tensions are often brought to a head when it comes to the critical decisions of daily life for the one being cared for. Even with the most supportive family, the primary caregiver still carries the major weight of care, and this extreme pressure and responsibility can alter their psychological equilibrium. The concepts of caregiving can often occupy the thoughts of the caregiver.

Financial burden.
The financial costs associated with caregiving can be significant. Caregiving affects a caregiver’s work and family financials, such as balancing a job and providing care to other family members. The financial burden refers to direct costs related to paying for the caregiving expenses, as well as challenges in employment due to one having to perform a caregiving role. The primary caregiver often experiences loss of income, because he/she must take more days off, and has to leave work earlier to attend to care recipient issues, etc. The caregiver’s level of productivity at work can be affected, because of fatigue, and the caregiver may even miss out on career advancement and promotion opportunities because of their caregiving obligations.

We’ll review the other two, but no less important burdens in our blog next week. We look forward to your comments and your questions.