Caregivers teach valuable lessons about caregiving

Discuss traits that can help unite caregivers.

From left to right, Criss, Arlene & Cheryl are members of MSU Extension
From left to right, Criss, Arlene & Cheryl are members of MSU Extension "Powerful Tools for Caregivers" workshop in Cadillac, Michigan

Michigan State University Extension has identified a community health gap in support services available for caregivers. Pam Daniels, MSU Extension Educator explains, “Caregivers, need the care and support of communities. What we have identified is while there are resources and support groups that focus on the care receiver's diseases; there is a lack of evidenced-based programs providing health and wellness tools specific to the caregiver, those providing the care.

A caregiver provides assistance to a care receiver who is, in some degree, incapacitated and needs the help of others. Commonly, a caregiver is an unpaid individual who supports the daily care of another.

The Population Reference Bureau distinguishes similarities shared by caregivers including, the impact on family dynamics, worry, financial adjustments, anger, depression, and the joys surrounding caregiving.

Caregivers also commonly report experiencing
  • anxiety
  • tiredness
  • health problems
  • difficulty sleeping
  • guilt
  • loss of fun for themselves
  • resentment
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • fear of the future
  • a reluctance to ask for help
According to Family Caregiver Alliance Administration on Aging, typical caregiver profiles include: 
  • 71 percent provide daily, hands-on care
  • 71 percent have been caregiving for more than one year; and 52 percent for three or more years
  • 53 percent lived with the individual(s) that they care for; 39 percent travel up to one hour to provide care
  • 44 percent indicated that there were “no other members willing or able” to help provide care
  • 36 percent were employed full or part-time
  • 27 percent described their health as “fair or poor”
  • 15 percent were kinship caregivers (e.g., caregiving for grandchildren)

A public health report issued by Assuring Health Caregivers and developed under the Center for Disease & Control’s (CDC) includes a framework which suggests effective evidence-based programs can help improve the health and quality of life of caregivers and their families.

Michigan State University Extension provides an evidence-based program called, Powerful Tools for Caregivers.

Benefits of attending a caregiver program
  • Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
  • Achieving a better sense of empowerment and control
  • Improved coping skills
  • A reduction in distress, depression or anxiety
  • Lower rates of clinical depression
  • Developing a clearer understanding of what to expect of the situation
  • Receiving practical advice or information about treatment options
  • Improved caregiving ability, in turn, resulting in a better quality of life for all involved
  • May help towards keeping loved ones at home longer

If you are an active caregiver struggling to cope, try a caregiver class or support group.  Shannon Lindquist Extension Educator adds, “In marketing this Powerful Tools for Caregiver class, Pam and I were interviewed by a local paper and received a front page feature story. During our class a participant shared he read the news article and recognized his own circumstances. He immediately called and enrolled.”   

Caregiving is difficult and everyone struggles with the daily challenges. To learn more about Michigan State University Extension's evidence based curriculum, Powerful Tools for Caregivers, contact your local Extension office.  

Other resources worth checking out

The Family Caregiving Alliance - FCA resources for caregivers

Caregiver Action Network

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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