The stress of being a caregiver

People who provide care to individuals with mild cognitive impairment may find their own stress levels are increased as a result. This is because new research published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, has shown the agitation people suffering from such conditions feel can rub off on the individuals looking after them.

According to the study, caregivers who find their day is increasingly disrupted by the unsettled behaviour of the ones they are tending to often have more difficulty balancing their workloads regarding the home and family.

Tina Savla, Assistant Professor of Human Development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech - which was founded in 1872 - noted considerable alterations in everyday roles are often required when providing support for a relative.

Ms Savla explained: "These changes take a toll on family relationships and psychological health and carry consequences for the care partner's physical health."

Dr Grainne Fadden, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "It has been a consistent finding in research on the effects of caregiving that carers experience increased levels of stress themselves and experience much higher rates of minor mental health difficulties – stress reactions, anxiety disorders, depression – that the rest of the population. 

"Frequent audits carried out by groups such as the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Carers UK attest to this, with some carers also describing physical health problems, some of which are exacerbated by stress.

"When one person in a relationship is not functioning in the way they did previously, the person in the caring role frequently has to take on additional tasks and roles. Added to this is the worry about the person they are caring for – what will happen to them, how can they ensure they get the best help and support and what will happen in the future? 

"Research indicates that this situation can have an impact on the carer's employment, ability to work, finances, social activities, household activities and relationships within the family. There is an obvious impact on children in the family. In some cases, carers can also experience stigma. 

"All of this emphasises the need for carers and other family members to receive support and services. It is cost effective to do this given that in the UK it is estimated that carers taking on the roles they do results in savings of £87 billion per annum."