Self-care is important and the options to engage are endless: Meditation, counseling, deep breathing exercises, a healthy diet, exercise…the list goes on. Self-care is necessary for your own physical and mental health to recharge your energy (Tramonti, Bongioanni, Bonfiglio, Ross, & Carboncini, 2017). Another way that caregivers can seek help is by joining a caregiver support groups. Research shows that technology-based support groups are not only more convenient for caregivers but are effective in lessening to effects of caregiver burden (Lee, 2015). When you are tasked with caring for others, especially after a physical injury, self-care becomes even more important. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot effectively take care of others (Miller, 1993).
Caregiver burden, also called caregiver stress, is often overlooked. We become so focused on caring for another individual that we forget to focus on our own self-care until it becomes a weight that feels impossible to bear. Caregiver burden often takes the form of depression, anxiety, poor physical health and a lower quality of life (Blake, 2008). These issues not only affect the caregiver, but the immediate family and extended support system as well, leading to feelings of loss and/or guilt (Boyle and Haines, 2002). Studies have also shown that time away from a caregiver’s job and social circle lead to higher occurrences of stress (Demirtepe-Saygili & Bozo, 2011).
Identifying your need for help in dealing with caregiver burden can be done with assessments with the help of a mental health professional, but it starts with self-awareness (Degeneffe, 2001). No one knows you better than you know yourself. As frequently as you check in on the person you care for, check in with yourself. If you start to notice an increase in feelings of overwhelming stress, lack of control over primary emotions, or an overall decrease in quality of life, it may be time to talk to a professional. This is not a bad thing! Mental health professionals are ready and willing to help you pack your personal tool box with the techniques to help you help yourself.
How do you cope with caregiver burden? Self-care is priority one. Engaging in any of the methods mentioned above will be a step in the right direction. Caring for yourself while caring for others is a delicate balance, but not impossible with the right tools.
*If you are interested in finding a caregiver support group at Mercy Medical Center, follow this link.
Blake, H. (2008). Caregiver stress in traumatic brain injury. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 15(6), 263-271.
Boyle, G. J. & Haines, S. (2002). Severe traumatic brain injury: Some effects on family caregivers. Psychological Reports, 90, 415-425.
Degeneffe, C. E. (2001). Family caregiving and traumatic brain injury. Health & Social Work 26(4), 257-268.
Demirtepe-Saygili, D., & Bozo, Ö. (2011). Predicting depressive symptoms among the mothers of children with leukemia: A caregiver stress model perspective. Psychology & Health, 26(5), 585-599.https://doi.org/10.1080/08870441003611577
Lee, E. (2015). Do technology-based support groups reduce care burden among dementia caregivers? A review. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 12(5), 474-487. https://doi.org/10.1080/15433714.2014.930362
Miller, L. (1993). Family therapy of brain injury: Syndromes, strategies, and solutions. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 21(2), 111-121.
Tramonti, F., Bongioanni, P., Bonfiglio, L., Rossi, B., & Carboncini, M. C. (2017). Systemic-oriented psychological counselling for caregivers of people with severe brain injury: Reflections on a clinical case. Contemporary Family Therapy, 39, 73-79. doi: 10.1007/s10591-017-9405-2