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Let us first establish clarity to the meaning of the word “Caregiver”, defined in dictionaries as a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people, or the chronically ill).  Many people have chosen life careers in this area, but far more are in these positions by sheer circumstance and inadequately prepared for the challenges and oftentimes unforeseen/unknown stresses that manifest.

As a medical practitioner, I have heard the frustration coming from some family members of my elderly patients who are also struggling to deal with their own health issues and other family obligations.  This while juggling their work and personal lives.  One can only imagine the mental as well as physical toll as a result and let’s be clear here, these maladies usually go unaddressed and only serve to exacerbate the condition.

In our society unfortunately mental health seems to be of low priority so you won’t hear much in the way of coping with stress as it pertains to caregiving.  Consider for a moment, the correlation between stress and one’s physical well-being. It is evident that stress plays a significant role in the ability to maintain daily healthy bodily operations.  It can trigger fluctuations in blood pressure, lower the body’s natural immunity, and a host of other conditional maladies.

How Does One Cope as A Caregiver?

Unfortunately, this is not something which a “cut and dry” response can be offered as a solution to apply to everyone.  Many different variables may apply in a given situation such as what familial support systems are present, are there others within the family structure able to assist to lessen the burden of stress?  Lest I forget to mention you must first acknowledge and verbalize what you are having to deal with that is causing the stress, and next seek out solutions to remedy or ameliorate the situation.  If giving care to an elderly person, seek out organizations specifically for the aging in your community.  If you have access to a mental health professional or even with your primary care physician or NP, talk with them about what you are experiencing.  These professionals may be able to provide some direction and advice which could be efficacious

In our modern times, things have become increasingly more difficult, particularly for families caring for the aging baby boomer generation. Many are plagued with a myriad of morbidity issues stemming from a system that emphasizes and promotes lifestyles incompatible with good health.  A system of unfettered capitalism at the expense of the populace’s health is our reality so is it any wonder why we are so stressed out and sick?  Coping in this environment seems monumental and will absolutely require something different from what we have been doing.  We must first adjust the system to assign real value to the lives of the people, big corporations such as insurance industries, pharmaceutical companies, and the like must be made to acquiesce to the will of the people rather than the other way around.  

Finally, I think it is imperative and duly incumbent to note that professional caregivers should feel compelled to be vocal about this growing problem we know exist with regard to the stress many non-professional caregivers are experiencing.  We can offer advice on proper diet and exercise, but it is just as important to educate and advocate as an amplified voice for government to effect changes. 

Barbra Bonsu

Barbra Bonsu

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