Caregiver Role Strain

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Erin M. Sullins, BSEd, BLS
Department of Nursing, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK, USA

Aim: The purpose of this research is to explore whether caregivers are being assessed for caregiver burden, and whether they are being provided with the appropriate resources to minimize this burden.

Framework: The framework used for this research was the Family Stress Theory and addressed how the condition of the patient impacted the stress experienced by the caregiver and the family while caring for a chronically ill or disabled family member. 

Methods: A review of the literature produced 23 peer-reviewed articles related to impact of caregiver role strain on the primary caregiver and families of patients with chronic illnesses and disabilities. 

Results: Caregiver role strain is a growing concern. There are an estimated 34 million caregivers of people with chronic illnesses and disabilities (CDC, 2011), but the subject of caregiver role strain is often overlooked by providers. In a study by Kim, Chang, Rose, & Kim (2012), it was found that the more time a caregiver spent providing care, the greater the burden. Role strain can also have a negative impact on the health of the caregiver. However, caregivers do not always see their health and the stress they experience as a priority. The inability to afford mental health services to help cope with stress of caring for someone with chronic illness or disability, makes it difficult for family caregivers to seek help (Mosher, Given, & Ostroff, 2015). Seeking mental health services for counseling is also seen as a “last resort” because there is a stigma in our society in regards to seeking mental health services such as counseling. Caregivers do not want to be seen as weak and unable to take care of their loved one. Caregivers of adults and children with chronic illnesses and disabilities know that they need breaks from caregiving. In a study by Larson (2010), parents of children with disabilities felt that being able to recuperate would allow them to maintain their well-being and provide for their disabled child and the rest of their families better. Research does not indicate that caregivers are being assessed regularly for role strain and being provided resources to help them cope. 

Conclusion: Caregiver role strain is rarely addressed by providers, and nurses are in a position to be advocates for not only the patient but their caregivers as well in order to provide holistic nursing care. Nurses can advocate for more support for caregivers, assess caregivers for role strain, and provide them with information on resources to help reduce caregiver role strain. A study has been proposed to understand what resources caregivers of children with chronic illnesses and disabilities have available to them and how they are helpful has been provided.