01 Mar Caregiving – Part I, The Burden
If you provide care for someone, you are not alone. In 2007, 2.7 million Canadians aged 45 and older – 1 in 5 – provided care or assistance to an older family member or friend. That works out to $24 to $31 billion worth of informal support. *
As a caregiver you may provide practical support (e.g. driving, getting groceries), personal care (e.g. washing hair), emotional support and companionship, and provide information. You may feel satisfaction in providing care, and your emotional bonds and affection are likely strong and meaningful.
Burden of care – personal
But you might also feel anger and resentment about the situation, and stress can lead to burnout. Guilt is common, because caregivers often believe they should do more, and think they could provide better care than they do. Providing informal care for someone with dementia is particularly stressful due to
– loss of communication with the spouse or parent
– loss of a marriage partnership or parent/child relationship
– loss of personal freedom.
Burden of care – employment
Caregiving can also affect work, particularly for women who often bear a greater burden of caregiving, not only in the amount of care they give, but also because daughters are more likely to be caregivers. Typical work impacts include
– arriving late and leaving early
– taking time off work
– taking leaves of absence
– using vacation time to provide care.
These may affect income, chance for promotion, a reduction in private and public pension benefits in old age, and lead to negative health impacts for the caregiver. Caregivers may also pay out-of-pocket expenses for medications, formal care services, and home modifications.
Some people may experience a greater burden of care due to their situation: *
– caregivers with their own health problems
– greater care demands, such as spousal caregivers and those caring for people with dementia
– fewer financial resources, fewer social resources
– recent immigrants
– holding a religious belief
– feeling less commitment to filial piety.
Caregivers are more often female, and daughters usually provide more care than sons. Sons are usually less guilty about setting care limits and are less involved in the emotional needs of the person needing care, but sons also feel love, compassion, and responsibility, as well as sadness, frustration, and guilt.
Older people often feel they receive less support than their children say they provide. This may help parents to feel that they are less of a burden to their children, but it can also make children feel unappreciated. Better-educated parents and children are more accurate in their assessment of care levels.
* Aging and Society: Canadian Perspectives, 7th Edition, 2014. Novak, M., Campbell, L., and Northcott, Herbert C. , Nelson Education Ltd., 439 pp.
Caregivers Nova Scotia has helpful resources on their website.