Mental Health America (MHA) recognizes the month of November as National Family Caregivers month. MHA states that over 60 million Americans are caregivers for family members, friends, and even neighbors. When you think caregiver, you probably think of those who take care of people with some type of medical issue. However, according to MHA, 1 in 5 caregivers actually provide care for someone with a mental illness. Those who are caregivers for those with mental illness include parents, adult children, and spouses.
Though being a caregiver can be incredibly rewarding, it is also very hard work. Caregivers can experience impacts to physical and mental health, along with increased work stress. Being a caregiver can also put strain on the caregiver’s social life. Perhaps one of the biggest issues that caregivers run into is what’s called compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue occurs when a caregiver experiences some type of emotional, physical, or spiritual distress. Essentially, when a caregiver is caring for someone that is experiencing high levels of physical or emotional pain, it can impact the caregiver in a variety of ways. Specifically, caregivers can experience feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, sadness, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, body aches, constant worry, and high levels of tension.
Though family caregivers may not experience as much trauma in their caregiving as other types of caregivers, the lack of breaks or respite can induce a similar emotional and physical weight. Without proper support, caregivers can experience burnout.
Luckily, the amount of support and resources for caregivers have increased as the number of caregivers has grown. It is essential for caregivers to receive mental healthcare. Increased support for caregivers not only improves their personal lives, but can also help them serve their loved ones better. Here are some helpful tips to manage caregiver stress:
- Accept help – if someone wants to help out with caring for the person you’re caring for, allow yourself to accept the help.
- Set realistic goals for yourself in your personal life and while providing care
- Set personal health goals, such as establishing a sleep schedule or time to exercise through the week
- Set aside time in your schedule for self-care
- Establish social support by staying connected with friends and family
- Join a caregiver support group
- Capital Region Caregiver Coalition: Support Groups Calendar:
- Make an appointment with a counselor at Capital EAP
- If you are a caregiver and you are experiencing feelings of anxiousness, hopelessness, or anger, check out the screening below:
- Mental Health America: Mental Illness Screening:
- Respite care can be helpful in lightening the load for the caregiver. Services can be provided in the home, at adult care centers/programs, or even short-term nursing homes.
- Living Resources Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA) – In-home care: https://www.livingresources.org/services/certified-home-health-agency-chha/
For more information about caregiver stress and coping check out this article from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784
Mental Health America developed a toolkit for caregivers to help educate and empower caregivers serving those with mental illness. Download the toolkit below:
By: Kristi Zalinka, Capital EAP MHC Intern