Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Post from Eric Stevenson: Caring for a chronic illness patient: A difficulty on its own

This Guest Post is from Eric Stevenson, a health and safety advocate who resides in the South Eastern US.

Having a chronic illness can be extremely tough, not only for the patient themselves but also for those who care for them. The process of loving and supporting someone with a chronic illness can be very difficult and challenging. Many times caregivers don’t want to speak up about their own stress because they may feel guilty or that it doesn’t matter as much than the patient’s problems. Luckily, there are a few ways to be prepared and help in the difficult situation of caring for a person with a chronic illness. 

There’s a great amount of social factors and possible coping strategies involved with care giving, as some things can influence stress levels in a positive or negative direction. Financial instability can cause major stress and mental issues for caregivers. In many times a chronic illness can lead to major financial problems as hospital bills continue to stack up. Financial factors can influence the mental state of caregivers in either direction. With more financial support, caregivers are often able to delegate some of their responsibilities, thus lowering stress and improving mental health. 

Social support also plays a huge role in the process of caring for a chronic illness patient. The help of family, friends, or even neighbors can play both a positive and negative part in the mental state. Not allowing for any support for the patient can often cause problems, but so can minimal support for yourself or a care giver. The stress and difficulty of taking care of someone with a chronic illness can be a major burden. Not having anyone to talk to or vent is often a major cursor to stress. 

Many people deal with side effects of coping strategies. Some may take to avoidance, but in many cases that will lead to further health problems. Avoidance as a coping strategy has been known to bring on many cases of depression. Many caregivers with low self esteem will use emotionally charged coping strategies, while those with high self esteem may turn to task centered coping methods. In the end, research has shown a large connection in self esteem and depression within caregivers. 

Factors such as the type of illness and location will also play a large part in the process. Some diseases like mesothelioma (a cancer forming from asbestos exposure) will have a severely low life expectancy. When compared to a patient that may be expected to live many years longer, the care giving situation will be extremely different. 

In the end, there are certainly a few factors that will play a large part in the role of a caregiver for those with chronic illnesses. The value of a support system and being educated on the disease will remain important. Caring can end up being extremely difficult and stressful, thus caregivers should also be looked out for in the future.