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Family Caregiver Distress Assessment

Distress Level



Understanding your Assessment

Remember, your results are individualized for you as a way to gauge your distress over time. The results are only meant to serve as general guidelines and are relative to your personal situation. Life circumstances, your health (and your loved one’s health), financial standing and gender can impact your stress and distress levels.

Below are a list of customized resources based on your responses that you may find helpful:

It is challenging enough to keep any household well kept and organized, but this responsibility causes much more distress when it needs to be done on top of caring for a loved one. Whether you are maintaining just your home or both yours and your loved one’s, unecessary clutter can add to the stress of keeping the household in order.

Actions taken by your loved one in anger can cause a range of emotions for you including distress, resentment and confusion. Some of these actions may even lead to physical or verbal assault. As a family caregiver, it is important to learn to handle and deal with these tough situations and recognize when a dangerous one requires outside help.

Communication troubles with your children, family members or neighbors can worsen your caregiver distress. Poor communication may also cause resentment toward other family members who can’t, won’t or don’t offer support and help.

Do you have a support network? Work on building a team that can help minimize the strains from family drama.

Research has shown that women could be under more psychological distress than men. (However, research also reveals that men caregivers can have more negative physiological responses to caregiving such as increased blood pressure, cholesterol, risk for obesity and immune impairment.)

Research reveals that male caregivers can have more negative physiological responses to caregiving such as increased blood pressure, cholesterol, risk for obesity and immune impairment.

If you have health problems such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, stress can worsen your health over time, research indicates. Now is the time to seek help from family and friends, or a professional caregiving service. There is no shame in asking for help; you are performing great acts of kindness every day and deserve to care for yourself.

If you do not care for yourself, who will care for your loved one?

Studies and practical experience reveal that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia tends to elevate stress levels. If you are caring for someone who has a serious or terminal disease, you must stay abreast of any changes that could impact your own distress levels. Remember, caregiving is a subjective task. The breaking point for one individual may be different from another caregiver.

Whatever the case, seek help before you get to your breaking point.

A lack of financial resources can cause stress that leads family caregivers down the road to distress. Things like the economic downturn and fixed incomes are just a few factors that can turn already difficult conversations into more stressful ones.

Support and answers to your questions are readily available to help make tough financial situations more manageable.

Are you feeling alone or like you have the world on your shoulders? Your relationship with the one for whom you are caring may be hightening your distress. If you’re caring for your life partner and best friend, who has been your support throughout the years, you may feel you don’t have any one to turn to for help.

Whatever your situation, take an objective look at what you can do to reduce stress and seek out the services of friends, family, faith and professionals.

As a family caregiver, it can be easy to feel as though you’re not doing enough. You may tend to repress the many emotions that go with being a family caregiver.

People often don’t realize that you’re having problems coping until you tell them. Ask someone to fill in so you can take a break. Regularly de-stressing—whether it’s going on vacation or simply reading a good book at home—can result in the best outcomes for long-term success.

You might also choose to share these results with professionals, such as social workers or doctors, to help you get the help you need. If you feel that you may be suffering from caregiver stress or distress, we encourage you to consult with a health care provider.

These questions, comments and ideas are adapted with permission for the Home Instead® network from:

Peter P. Vitaliano, M.S., Ph.D., and Joan Russo, Ph.D., Heather M. Young, Ph.D., R.N,F.A.A.N., Joseph Becker, Ph.D., and Robert D. Maiuro,Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. who developed the Screen for Caregiver Burden.

Please do not quote without citing the original source and/or contacting Dr. Vitaliano at the University of Washington, [email protected].

Editor’s Note: These scores are meant to be individualized for each caregiver to gauge relative distress over time and are meant only to serve as a general guide. For example, a caregiver who has distress in just one area (my loved one has assaulted others) could believe he/she is under greater overall distress than someone who accumulates a higher stress score from a combination of events.

Family caregivers may use this assessment to become aware of what they find troubling about caregiving. The assessment can be a baseline from which goals for future growth are developed and progress made.

The assessment also could be used by family caregivers to communicate their needs to professionals. Results of the assessment may be presented to social workers/psychologists to sum up fears, worries and needs, and to help illustrate goals that a family caregiver may want to accomplish.

Social workers/psychologists can then help caregivers develop the skills they need to cope with the stressful job of caring for a loved one.