Steven Zarit, professor and head of the Human Development and Family Studies department at Penn State University, recently led a study of caregiver stressors. The study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Benjamin Rose Institute and other colleagues, focused on dementia caregivers and the unique stressors they face.
Because caregivers of dementia patients find themselves in the role for five to seven years on average, but up to ten to fifteen years in many cases, the effects of caregiving for this population can be particulary stressful, Science Daily reports.
The study found that participants experienced a wide range of severity of stress among the fifteen most common stressors experienced by caregivers. The stressors studied included frequency of help from family and friends, financial stressors, time demands, and patient behaviors.
Many barriers to overcoming caregiver stress
While interventions could help, this research notes that interventions are typically cause-specific, and therefore won’t work across the board. Teaching caregivers how to cope with and modify patient behaviors won’t be effective for family caregivers who don’t experience behavioral issues, and it also won’t help caregivers deal with other stressors they may be experiencing at the same time.
In addition, most family caregivers are somewhat isolated, providing care in the home. Intervention programs are expensive and many fail to reach the in-home population. However, Zarit recommends preventative interventions that help caregivers deal with various stressors before they reach a threshold that can cause depression or breakdowns. He also advises that adaptive interventions are best, because they’re modified to address the unique risk factors and circumstances faced by each individual.
Zarit is currently researching adult day care services, and based on positive feedback gathered so far, recommends this approach to families who can afford it. Even a few days per week can provide some much-needed relief and help avoid the burnout that comes with geriatric care.