Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Post from Eric Stevenson: Caring for a chronic illness patient: A difficulty on its own

This Guest Post is from Eric Stevenson, a health and safety advocate who resides in the South Eastern US.

Having a chronic illness can be extremely tough, not only for the patient themselves but also for those who care for them. The process of loving and supporting someone with a chronic illness can be very difficult and challenging. Many times caregivers don’t want to speak up about their own stress because they may feel guilty or that it doesn’t matter as much than the patient’s problems. Luckily, there are a few ways to be prepared and help in the difficult situation of caring for a person with a chronic illness. 

There’s a great amount of social factors and possible coping strategies involved with care giving, as some things can influence stress levels in a positive or negative direction. Financial instability can cause major stress and mental issues for caregivers. In many times a chronic illness can lead to major financial problems as hospital bills continue to stack up. Financial factors can influence the mental state of caregivers in either direction. With more financial support, caregivers are often able to delegate some of their responsibilities, thus lowering stress and improving mental health. 

Social support also plays a huge role in the process of caring for a chronic illness patient. The help of family, friends, or even neighbors can play both a positive and negative part in the mental state. Not allowing for any support for the patient can often cause problems, but so can minimal support for yourself or a care giver. The stress and difficulty of taking care of someone with a chronic illness can be a major burden. Not having anyone to talk to or vent is often a major cursor to stress. 

Many people deal with side effects of coping strategies. Some may take to avoidance, but in many cases that will lead to further health problems. Avoidance as a coping strategy has been known to bring on many cases of depression. Many caregivers with low self esteem will use emotionally charged coping strategies, while those with high self esteem may turn to task centered coping methods. In the end, research has shown a large connection in self esteem and depression within caregivers. 

Factors such as the type of illness and location will also play a large part in the process. Some diseases like mesothelioma (a cancer forming from asbestos exposure) will have a severely low life expectancy. When compared to a patient that may be expected to live many years longer, the care giving situation will be extremely different. 

In the end, there are certainly a few factors that will play a large part in the role of a caregiver for those with chronic illnesses. The value of a support system and being educated on the disease will remain important. Caring can end up being extremely difficult and stressful, thus caregivers should also be looked out for in the future.


Sarebear said...

My husband shows alot of the signs of stress, depression, etc. from taking care of me. My arthritis hasn't gotten bad enough to need constant care, but my various mental illnesses leave me (feeling) unable to cope with many self-care activities. As well as the chronic pain I now have after last year's surgeries now leading to me feeling alot more limited.

Anyway, he's always gone the extra mile in caring for me, and since he's been out of work for 10.5 months now he's had even more opportunity to care for me (though I'm trying to make some efforts in efficacy and do more for myself; after the many months of surgical recovery my sense of being able to take care of myself is at an all time low)

Not that you wanted to know all that. I've wished for YEARS that he had resources to help him with his stress and I'm guessing frustrations and with the depression I've seen him develop, with having a wife like me. But we get little support from family, and the more supportive family is mine, not one he'd be apt to talk to.

Sarebear said...

We have little in the way of a support system, and I dearly wish I could get him some help (aside from me trying to do more for myself; it's an issue of I really have to fight not feeling able to do stuff, not because I expect him to cater to me.)

I must say for myself, having experienced a difficult year recently with the long surgical recoveries, that in therapy it was so helpful to have that support and objective third party in discovering and working through issues related to recovering. Still working on the feeling like a cripple, one, though, and a HUGE struggle with the efficacy. One can only keep plugging away at it!

Sorry to go on . . . I do have a future of, as the ortho doc said, "increasing pain, decreasing function, and more parts WILL go" ie I'll need more replacements (dread). Still, that's not here yet, I just wish I wasn't going to become even more of a burden to him.

Peny@otoscope said...

"Caring can end up being extremely difficult and stressful, thus caregivers should also be looked out for in the future."

Indeed, while it is a need that someone must care to patients, it is also a necessity that caregivers must be cared to. Someone to vent and talk to is very important especially for those caregivers who are having a great burden when it comes to their work and even in their personal lives.

Anonymous said...

Writer's workshop, Turn right and keep going straight.

TheSV said...

While this post certainly rings true, it is nonetheless not very helpful. Caregivers definitely need care given to them. Unfortunately, the nature of the beast is that chronic illness increases resource needs while simultaneously decreasing resource availability.

The author identifies this conundrum, but offers no suggestions to remedy the situation. My guess is no solutions are presented because there aren't any easy solutions. The people in the trenches: the patients, their families/caregivers, and those who treat these patients; know this... and just the awareness of catch-22 situation generates more stress to dump into the cycle.

So, thank you for pointing out the problem. I suppose it is possible that some people are not aware of the problem and need to be. I hope this reaches them because even though the post is well-written, it doesn't have anything to offer the people most affected by the situation.

Anonymous said...

My son was a cursor but then I made him wash his mout out with soap. Oh, I meant curser, what did you mean? M cursor is a little arrow on the screen. Not the kind you carry in a quiver.