By Hook Law Center
As much of health care moves out of hospitals and into homes, caregivers are charged with providing care to increasingly ill loved ones in increasingly complex ways. At the same time, caregivers experience emotional stress from seeing the physical or cognitive decline of a loved one.
Anyone can be a caregiver, but caregivers are most likely to be middle-aged women who work and who may also be the primary caregivers for their children. The time commitment and physical commitment of providing care can be profound. In some cases, this mounting stress can be a contributing factor to the abuse or neglect of an elder.
Self-care is a key factor in reducing caregiver stress. Caregivers should develop healthy coping skills, such as taking time away from the elder, exercising, socializing or participating in hobbies.
A person’s family and community can also help reduce caregiver stress. For example, community respite programs can give caregivers a few hours to spend on their own needs. Family members can pitch in by becoming secondary caregivers and reducing the load on the primary caregiver.
One complex factor that can contribute to elder abuse and the stress of caregiving is the caregiver’s historical relationship with the elder. If the caregiver was abused by the elder as a child, the caregiver may experience a great deal of stress and complex emotions when caring for the elder now. The same is true for parent-child relationships that were marked by antipathy or apathy in previous years. For such individuals, professional assistance or other options for care may be best.