Taking care of a loved one may cause an especially damaging form of stress called caregiver stress. Caregivers are also more likely to experience negative health effects and a lower standard of living. Here are some facts gathered by Caregiver Action:
- More than 29% of the U.S. population provides care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend any given year.
- Women who are family caregivers are 2.5 times more likely than non-caregivers to live in poverty and 5 times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Caregiving families have median incomes more than 15% lower than non-caregiving families.
- 47% of working caregivers indicate an increase in caregiving expenses has caused them to use all or most of their savings.
- In 2016, caregivers spent an average of $6,954—about 20% of their income—on out-of-pocket caregiving expenses.
- 23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor.
- Stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person's immune system for up to 3 years after caregiving ends.
- 72% of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should. 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves. 63% report having poor eating habits compared to non-caregivers. 58% say they have worse exercise habits than before caregiving responsibilities.
- 20% of employed female caregivers over 50 years old report symptoms of depression compared to 8% of non-caregiving peers.
- 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. Approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meet diagnostic criteria for major depression.
- 11% of family caregivers say caregiving has caused their physical health to deteriorate.
- Extreme stress caused by caregiving can take as many as 10 years off a family caregiver's life.
How can I deal with caregiver stress?
Caregiver stress is a fact of life. Its likelihood is even greater if you’re caring for aging parents, a spouse, and children. The stress is compounded when you add a job.
Of employed caregivers, 60% say they’ve had to make adjustments to their work life, such as cutting back on their working hours, taking a leave of absence, receiving a warning about performance or attendance, or other such impacts.
Researchers have discovered that prayer reduces the impact of caregiver and other stress, as long as people pray for others. They theorize that the focus on others is what actually provides benefits.
Religion also provides the hope and optimism to spur positive action, according to psychologist Dr. Clay Routledge.
Religious people have lower blood pressure, healthier immune systems, less risk of depression, more happiness and other benefits.
How can I use prayer for caregiver stress?
The Catholic Health Association offers this prayer for caregivers. To meet the criterion of praying for others, you can pray for other caregivers.
“HEALER OF SOULS AND COMFORTER OF THE WEARY, HELP TO LIGHTEN THE BURDEN OF FAMILIES WHO ARE CARING FOR THEIR SICK LOVED ONES."
“Accompany them on their journey and ease their anxiety and fears. Surround them with the love and strength of others, so they may experience the healing presence of the communion of saints. We ask this through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and in the name of your Son, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. AMEN.”
The site offers numerous other prayers, too.
The Arlington Catholic Herald’s Bill Dodds presents this prayer to help caregivers focus on the qualities needed to ensure the well-being of loved ones:
Heavenly Father, help me better understand and believe I can do what you ask me to do.
Forgive me for the times, even now, when I question your judgment.
As I go about the many daily tasks of caregiving, give me energy.
As I watch my loved one oh-so-slowly walk across the room, give me strength.
As I answer his/her repeated question just one more time, give me patience.
As I look for solutions to whatever is the most recent concern, give me wisdom.
As I reminisce with him/her about the "good old days," give me a moment of laughter.
As I get to know my loved one in a new way, seeing both his or her strength and frailty, give me joy.
As I sit beside my loved one's bed waiting for his or her pain medication to take effect, give me comfort.
Lighten my burden, answer my prayer, and give me the strength to do what so often seems impossible. Give me a quiet place to rest when I need it and a quieting of my anxieties when I'm there.
Change my attitude from a tired, frustrated and angry caregiver to the loving and compassionate one I want to be.
Remain my constant companion as I face the challenges of caregiving, and when my job is through and it's time for me to let go, help me remember that he or she is leaving my loving arms to enter your eternal embrace. Amen.
Dodd also included inspiring “Beatitudes for Caregivers.”
The Esquiline supports your spiritual efforts
As a Christian continuing care community, The Esquiline promotes spiritual wellness. We offer a wide variety of spiritual wellness opportunities, including worship services, a chapel, pastoral counseling, liturgical ministries, and volunteer efforts. We invite you to call us at 800-533-6279 to learn more or to schedule a tour of The Esquiline.