Caregiver Intervention Shows Promise for Caregivers and Patients

More and more family members are becoming the primary caregivers for loved ones. Regardless of whether the role is born out of obligation, convenience or financial necessity, caregivers assume many responsibilities that are new and foreign to them. For those caring for loved ones with life-threatening illness, the role of caregiver can include physical, medical, and even psychological tasks. Ensuring that the daily needs of others are met while juggling the additional jobs of medication adherence, nursing, and general attendance can be overwhelming for many caregivers. Two of the most common fears of caregivers are lack of education and knowledge relating to the illness. They also report high levels of anxiety and concern about being able to fulfill the role of caregiver. Other issues that face many caregivers include stress, hopelessness, and powerlessness that come from caring for another, as well as facing the inevitable passing of the loved one in their charge.

Interventions aimed at alleviating caregiver stress are usually targeted to people already in the role of caregiver. However, arming family members with the information they need and the support they want could have monumental benefits for both the caregivers and the family members they care for. Therefore, Anette Henriksson of the School of Health and Medical Sciences at Örebro University in Sweden recently conducted an experiment comparing a caregiver support group with basic caregiver training for a group of individuals responsible for caring for family members with life-threatening illnesses. She found that the support group participants had significant increases in their levels of competence and preparedness related to caregiving. These increases directly improved the rewards they perceived were associated with caring for their loved one.

The support group also discussed death, bereavement, and adjusting to life after the loss of their family member. Although this topic was sensitive, members who participated in the support group did not experience changes in emotions as a result. In fact, Henriksson found that the support group participants had the same levels of hope, depression, and anxiety at baseline as they did at the end of the intervention. This finding suggests that talking about the ultimate death of the loved one does not negatively impact caregivers, but rather, offers them an opportunity to share their concerns and worries with others in similar situations. In this way, they are better able to accept their role while the family member is living, without fear of what will happen to them when their caregiving responsibilities are no longer needed. Overall, these findings show that this type of support group has numerous benefits for caregivers and their loved ones. Henriksson added, “The results indicate that this intervention could be implemented and delivered to family members during ongoing palliative care.”

Reference:
Henriksson, Anette, et al. (2013). Effects of a support group programme for patients with life-threatening illness during ongoing palliative care. Palliative Medicine 27.3 (2013): 257-64. ProQuest. Web.

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  • emma s

    emma s

    April 6th, 2013 at 7:04 AM

    This is something that gives this group of people who are so often overlooked and undermined the chance to have an outlet, a way to talk to others who have experienced the same things that they have experienced in a way that feels both helpful and safe. I think that too many times those who are placed in these care giver roles feel so overwhelmed and not appreciated that this is the cause of a lot of the stress that they are forced to deal with. Giving them a group support system who knows exactly what they are feeling and may even have some suggestions for how to make things better is a great opportunity to make the most of the situation over simply dreading the position that they have been placed into.

  • Annette

    Annette

    April 6th, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    I am all about getting support from others but. . . why should I need rewards for taking care of my parents? Or for someone thinking that I deserve that? I mean, these are my parents. They did the same thing for me, so why shouldn’t I now be expected to give that back to them in return?

  • radford

    radford

    April 6th, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    sadness is bound to accompany this sort of a situation. so rather than letting that take over you it sounds better to talk about it with others who can understand you. a great initiative in my opinion. share and it will definitely feel better.

  • Benji

    Benji

    April 7th, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    Who is doing the intervening here?
    It’s not like those who are not being put in that position are going to care all that much because most of them they are the ones breathing a sigh of relief that it’s not them who is doing it.
    And the caregiver will rarely seek out help for himself, because either they think they don’t need it or they don’t have the time to think about their own needs.

  • irene m

    irene m

    April 8th, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    Like with any other job, the better prepared someone is ahead of time, the better overall experience they will have with that job. There is so much more to taking care of an ill adult then I think most of us realize. Think of trying to take care of someone who may remember being able to do for themselves and now they can’t- this is far more difficult than taking care of a baby. And yet this is the situation that many caregivers are met with, and I think that the person they are taking care of will sometimes exhibit a lot of hostility because of that. This is such a hard job, and there are so many times when they suffer in silence over asking for help.

  • Brynn

    Brynn

    April 8th, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    The one thing that I would find the most comforting would be to talk with others who have done it before and who know that feeling of powerlessness that being in this position places upon you.
    There is very little that you can do to change the situation, just in some small ways make it a little bit better. But when you are used to being a force to be reckoned with, this does not sometimes feel like you are doing enough.
    It is just a tough spot for anyone to be in, no matter whether you have training in the field or not. It is never an easy task to watch someone who may have once been so vibrant become somewhat a shell of what they used to be and I think that this is one of the hardest parts of being a caregiver for a family member. You have the memories of who they used to be.

  • yellow pearl

    yellow pearl

    April 9th, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    oh the stress that comes with being a care giver! love for the person and affection remains but caring for someone full time is not easy! been there done that and frankly care givers would be all too glad to receive any help they can get.

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