Although caring for a loved one who is suffering from a chronic illness (physical or psychological) is often very fulfilling, it can also take a serious emotional and physical toll. As described in a recent article, Lessons for Caregiving in Monitor on Psychology (a journal published by the American Psychological Association), there are several research-based ways for caregivers to improve their quality of life:
- Find a support group: Finding support from other caregivers in a group is important and can make you feel less alone .
- Get practical help: Research suggests that active problem solving, with the help of others, is very useful, and reduces the sense of burden for family members providing care. Ask people to help you brainstorm solutions, list pros and cons, and figure out options.
- Involve family: Researchers have found that caregivers who reach out to other family members for help do much better in the long run. Although family dynamics can be complicated, caregivers who met with family members in the presence of a trained counselor felt increased levels of social support and decreased symptoms of depression (Health Affairs, 2014).
- Regular respite: Taking regular breaks from care giving improved well-being for caregivers. Researchers found that caregivers had lower levels of stress hormones, anger, and depression on days when their care recipients were sent to adult day services.
- Find a connection point: Caregivers and care recipients who engaged in shared activities that promoted a sense of meaning both experienced greater well being. Some examples are: participating in a creative activity such as discussing favorite memories and important people in the life of the care recipient and finding a way to represent the legacy that the care recipient wants to leave behind, such as a photo album or book of family recipes.