The Painful Toll It Takes On A Family When Caring For A Loved One

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caregiving

Caregiver strain among family members can be excruciating; here are some ways to manage the care and the stress.

We want to help our loved ones in times of need, but it’s important to be emotionally prepared for the job of caregiver; the best way to do that is something even the experts are still trying to learn. New studies are attempting to paint a clear picture of caregiver stress. Some of the results are expected, but others are a bit surprising.

For instance, we’re just now learning that the stereotypical idea of women handling the stress of caregiving better than men is wrong. A study reported by Reuters says men and women deal with an equal amount of stress when acting as caregiver, and that both handle the stress the same way, with similar states of mental health.

The study also stated that caring for a disabled spouse or child causes much more stress than caring for an ailing parent. While this may seem obvious, science and research on the topic is surprisingly new. Understanding caregiving stress, even at a basic level, is a step towards helping those who dedicate their lives to helping others.

The Most Important Rule Of Stress Management: Communicate

How do you handle the stress of caregiving? According to the Reuters article, keys to managing stress and your own mental health are the following:

  • Planning ahead
  • Seeking information on caregiving and the specific illness involved
  • Accepting your feelings
  • Attending to your own needs and seeking support from others

Making plans is the step in the right direction, but for family members who have trouble planning a party, let alone a caregiving arrangement, it can be taxing and stressful to even begin the conversation. When this happens, it’s best to air out your family drama with an expert.

Such was the case of Rosie, Therese, and Linda McMahan of Amherst, MA. The siblings were forced to deal with caregiving for their wheelchair-bound mother and brother after their father unexpectedly died. Left with questions of which sister should help and when, who was financially responsible, and what happens if another sudden change to the dynamic occurred, the sisters needed a way to communicate beyond traditional, polite dinner conversation. For that very reason, professional mediators exist.

Through mediation, it’s possible to air out all the issues involved with caring for a family member. “We wanted to stay connected as siblings, but if you don’t get someone else to help you out, you kind of fall prey to your childhood antics. A mediator makes a hard job a little easier,” Rosie said in an interview with The New York Times.

Getting Help

It’s situations like this that has made professional mediation more and more popular, but it’s still a new field of therapy. Only recently has the Association for Conflict Resolution offered a section on their site devoted to mediation, so that professionals and clients can better understand the problem and help those in need.

According to AARP, mediation sessions cost approximately $100-$500 an hour and those looking for a family mediator can find out more on a site like Mediate.

If you think you won’t need mediation because you can handle your brothers and sisters yourself, the professionals warn: Think again, says lawyer and psychologist Janet Mitchell. "Forty percent of caretakers have a major conflict with siblings," she told AARP.

It’s impossible to eliminate the stress of caring for a loved one, but through research and an open line of communication, it’s possible to better manage your own well-being, both physically and emotionally.

Written by Dan Bergstein

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