Do caregivers experience physical and emotional
stress? Do they have special needs, which are to
be addressed so that they can perform effectively? Are
there ways caregivers can, and must, take care of
themselves? “Quality of Life,” most often, is
discussed in terms of the individual requiring the care.
However, it must also be experienced by the caregiver.
There are many individuals who require care at home or
in long-term facilities – children and adults who are
developmentally disabled, those with physical
disabilities and individuals with cognitive impairments.
Care is shouldered by family members and/or professional
caregivers and, depending on the individuals’ needs, may
include minimal assistance during the day to total
dependency 24 hours, seven days a week. Such
demand places a tremendous burden on the caregiver,
which may result in some or all of the following
emotions: sadness, physical pain, anger, frustration,
hopelessness, despair, isolation, sleep and appetite
difficulties, anxiety, low energy and depressed mood.
For caregivers employed at large facilities, the stress
of caring for many medically and/or mentally compromised
patients/residents can be overwhelming. Though
there are scheduled break times, the caregiver is
assigned several tasks which must be completed by a
certain time as not to interfere with the natural rhythm
of life. With the shortage of skilled
professionals within the nursing field, caregivers are
often asked to “float” to other units and assume
The professional caregiver who works in the home may
have additional responsibilities as compared to those
working in facilities. They may include physical
care without appropriate assistive devices, cooking,
escorting the individual into the community, providing
recreational interests, etc. All these tasks are
to be accomplished without the support and camaraderie
of other personnel.
The part-time or full-time family caregiver bears
the heaviest of burdens, assuming the role without
any formal training/education. Adding an
additional layer of emotional stress is the
caregiver’s realization that the individual who now
needs their care is not the child they had
envisioned once upon a time or the adult they
remember fondly from their own childhood. This
illustrates the proverbial reversal of roles from
care recipient to care provider.
Which is your lifestyle? The professional
caregiver who returns home from work to again assume a
caregiving role with children, parents, relatives,
spouse, etc.? Or the family caregiver, upon a
similar return from work immediately assumes the
responsibility just vacated by the professional
caregiver? Or lastly, the full-time family primary
caregiver who has assumed all responsibilities all of
the time? Whichever role, the continuous stress
and non-stop responsibility can lead to burnout and
affects job performance. Caregivers need to set
aside time to relax and pursue leisure interests.
For any individual to function effectively and
efficiently, no matter their profession, but especially
for caregivers, they need to be able to include leisure
and recreation in their daily lives. Therapeutic
recreation, traditionally, has focused on individuals
with illnesses and disabling conditions. However,
today’s caregivers, given their responsibilities and
those who require their service, need to understand and
appreciate the importance of how recreation and leisure
can be utilized and benefit their lives.
Leisure is not merely a time spent not working or doing
chores. Rather, leisure can be thought of as a
state of mind that results from self-motivated,
enjoyable interactions with oneself, one’s environment
or with others. When engaged in leisure
activities, the caregiver can focus on the activities in
which he learns new skills, improves performance and/or
demonstrates competency. The following are some
suggested activities and the benefits, which may be
derived from them:
- Art/Music/Photography – creativity and self-expression
- Meditation/Yoga/TaiChi – release of stress, sense of
exercises – improved health, release of tension
- Reading/Games – sense of accomplishment, mental
Depending on the caregiver’s preference, leisure
activities can be pursued individually or with
friends/family. Meeting new people during an
activity can add to the enjoyment of the experience.
It is essential that the caregiver breaks the routine of
his/her day and commit to an activity of his/her choice.
A daily, weekly or even a monthly commitment will surely
benefit the individual. Here are some steps to get
what kind of activity would be of most interest.
Do you want to try something new? Perhaps, you
would like to resume a previous hobby?
where the activity is offered, cost, frequency, time and
refund policy. Check local listings of community
centers, colleges, museums, etc. Choose an
activity that piqued your interest and one which does
not add any additional burden on you.
applicable, arrange for another family member or friend
to assume the responsibility for the person you care for
in the home during your absence. Be comfortable
turning to others to assist you – you cannot do it
alone. In addition, research community-based
programs in which the individual you are caring for may
be eligible to attend. Day habilitation centers,
adult day health programs, etc. offer specialized
programming for individuals with special needs. In
addition, many after school programs offer inclusive
- Register for
the activity/class/program and STICK WITH IT!!
When initially registering, sign up for the least amount
of allowable time.
- Periodically, consciously evaluate the activity and
determine whether it is providing you with what you were
seeking. If you feel no intrinsic or extrinsic
benefit or enjoyment, it is time to try something
Needless to say, a caregiver’s life is stressful.
Since recreation and leisure are vital components for a
healthy lifestyle, it is essential they be incorporated
into the caregiver’s natural rhythm of life.
Through leisure and recreation, the caregiver can
improve physical and emotional health, grow spiritually,
and experience creative opportunities. Quality of life
will be enhanced and, in turn, the caregiver will
contribute to the quality of life of those they care
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