A Simple Strategy to Improve Caregiver Stress Levels and Limit Feelings of Isolation
Caregivers tend to report higher stress levels than non-caregivers. However, not all caregivers experience significant stress, and have better health outcomes as a result. Caregivers commonly report that the isolation of the caregiver's role is the most stressful aspect of being a caregiver. It is believed that caregivers feel most isolated when they do not feel reciprocal caring.
While chronic stress is associated with having worse health outcomes and higher chance of mortality, research has found that caregivers overall have a lower mortality rate. Dr. Clifford Singer, in a recent article summarizing the link between isolation and health, wrote the following,
The important factor is stress. Not all caregivers experience significant stress, and those that don't may experience health benefits from the caregiving relationship. In fact, in one study, non-stressed caregivers had 43% lower rates of mortality relative to non-caregivers. Non-stressed caregivers are more likely to experience positive emotions from the person they are providing care for and to gain strength from having a vital role to play in another person’s life. To be a caregiver and not feel some reciprocal caring from your partner is a special form of isolation that is particularly demoralizing, stressful, and unhealthy. Even small efforts to make isolated people feel appreciated and useful may reduce the stress of loneliness and thereby improve health.
The practical takeaway from these findings is that even small efforts to make a caregiver or care-recipient feel appreciated and useful can greatly reduce feelings of isolation. Both members of the partnership should make an effort to support each other's mental health. By letting your care-giving partner know that you appreciate their efforts may lead to improvements in their long-term health.
Source: Singer, Clifford. "Health effects of social isolation and loneliness." Journal of Aging Life Care 28.1 (2018): 4-8.