Christina M. Schultz, MA
Resident in Counseling
Supervised by Thomas F. Lamp, LPC
New Directions Counseling Group, LLC

Caring for Caregivers

Counseling for Parents, Spouses, Siblings, and Child Carers of Family Members with a Medical, Behavioral, Cognitive Condition, or Disability. 

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The National Alliance for Caregiving (2015) reported that there were at least 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months.  

In 2009, the National Alliance for Caregiving reported 9.2 million young adult caregivers aged 18 to 34 who provided unpaid care for an adult or a child with a medical, behavioral, other condition, or disability.  

If you are reading this, chances are, you find yourself feeling burned out, anxious, and overwhelmed by your caregiving situation and balance other role demands. It is lonely and distressing to feel this way, especially when you feel that you want, need, or should be the primary carer for your child, spouse, sibling, or parent during their times of need.     

Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burden, according to Calhoun, Beckham, and Bosworth (2002), is described as both the objective burdens (e.g. financial difficulties) associated with caring for the care recipient, as well as the subjective burden (e.g. caregiver responses) associated with caregiving demands.  

Young and middle-aged adult caregiver adult caregivers likely experience high social isolation, interruptions and set-backs with life goals (relationships, career, school, and leisure), perceived stress, caregiver burden, psychological distress, and role strain.

The National Alliance for Caregiving (2009) reported that 26% caregivers of younger adults and 39% caregivers of special needs children are in high burden situations, with 11% caregivers of younger adults and 24% caregivers of special needs children providing care for at least 41 or more hours a week.  Williams and Bakitas (2012) found that it was more common for cancer family caregivers to neglect their own needs, out of the lack of time and out of guilt. 


Caregiver Self-Assessments 

If you are a caregiver, you need to consider your grief reactions, new and altered relationships, caregiving burden, cognitive, behavioral, affective, and spiritual/existential decline in response to your caregiving, and prior experiences with caregiving. 


Additionally, you need to consider that you may be more at risk for caregiver burnout if you have a history of: depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, role strains, and stresses in your  marriage/relationship, job, student role, social life, family-of-origin, and parenting other children. 

To identify how well you are doing as a parent, spousal, or adult family caregiver, please take a look at the Caregiver Red Flags on this page and take the Caregiver Strain Index.  If you report 7 or more of these items, it is time for you to seek counseling as an intervention for yourself.  


Always remember, how well your care receiver does emotionally (whether they are a child or spouse), is also related to how well you do emotionally and vice versa.  It is paramount for you to take steps to take care of all your needs, in addition to supporting your loved one.  






Caregiver Red Flags

Withdrawing from friends and family.

Loss of interest in activities.

Loosing or gaining weight.

Inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or early morning awakening.

Feeling blue, irritable, or hopeless.

Feeling isolated.

Increased medication, alcohol, or drug use.

Persistent anxiety, anger, or guilt.


***If you ever feel the need to harm yourself or your care recipient, you need immediate help! 

Call your local Crisis Hotline (NoVA CrisisLink Regional Hotline: 703-527-4077, CrisisLink Regional Textline: Text CONNECT to 85511), or go to your nearest Hospital's Emergency Room.  

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How May I Support You?

I have experience and developing professional expertise in caregiver issues and how caregiving impacts spousal and partner relationships.  
 
I approach caregiver counseling from an meaning-based existential therapy model, integrating psychoeducation,  acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and wellness building approaches as your caregiving advocate and companion.   
 
I also offer couples counseling for couples facing the transition of coping with illnesses in one another and illness or special needs in their children.  Please see my Marriage Tab if you seeking more information about my Couples Counseling approaches.

As your counselor, I  will help you to stand up to your needs, explore reasons of guilt reactions, address and process your grief, improve assertiveness skills, help you to explore actual versus perceived stresses, and help you to come up with a respite plan, among other particulars. I will offer strategies to better manage and reduce your anxiety, negative thoughts, and be more resilient.  Short-term couples counseling to work on relationship maintenance, intimacy issues, and differences in needs and grief reactions, is also helpful to build resilience in your partnership.

I encourage you to call me or e-mail me today to take that
leap into action and find the support you are looking
for a better tomorrow for yourself!

References

Calhoun, P. S., Beckham, J. C., & Bosworth, H. B. (2002). Caregiver burden and psychological distress in partners of veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15(3), 205-212.

National Alliance for Caregiving (2009). Caregivers of Children: A Focused Look at Those Caring for A Child with Special Needs Under the Age of 18. Retrieved from http://www.caregiving.org/data/Report_Caregivers_of_Younger_Adults_11-12-09.pdf

National Alliance for Caregiving (2015).  Executive Summary:  Caregiving in the U.S., Retrieved from http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CaregivingintheUS_Executive-Summary-June-4_WEB.pdf

Robinson, B. (1983). Validation of a caregiver strain index. Journal of Gerontology, 38, 344-348.

Williams, A., & Bakitas, M. (2012). Cancer family caregivers: A new direction for interventions.
Journal of Palliative Medicine, 15(7), 775-783.