STRESS AND COPING AMONG CAREGIVERS OF CANCER PATIENTS & CAREGIVERS OF ELDERLY: A COMPARATIVE STUDY By Dr.Touseef Rizvi and Majid Hussain

Abstract

Caregiving refers to providing care to an individual who has an acute or chronic condition and needs assistance to manage a variety of tasks. Caregivers spend a substantial amount of time interacting with their care recipients, while providing care in a wide range of activities. With a high and still growing percentage of elderly, and an increasing prevalence of chronic diseases like cancer, family members from a substantial part of the care system. Old age and chronic diseases affects many people, directly or indirectly. Health policies, social trends and medical technological development leads to an expansive involvement of the informal care system. Multiple physical needs, intense psychological distress manifested by pain, anxiety and depression and restrictions in social functioning of the care recipient do not influence the care recipient only but also the care provider. People become dependent on a caregiver because of the alterations in his functional ability, bodily functions, appearance, employment status, family and social functioning. This inturn has a direct impact on the role of the caregiver. Therefore diagnosis such as cancer, or old age influences not only the patient but also the significant others in many respects. Studies have consistently shown that, as the level of functional and mental impairment of the care receiver increases, so does the amount of assistance provided by the caregiver (Horowitz, 1985). The growing number of aged population as a result of the increase in the life span of the individuals, and the continuing preference of older persons to stay with their young are some of the reasons which led to the emergence of caregiving as an important aspect of family life (Bali, 1999). In India, home based care with family members as primary caregivers still remains as the first and often the only option for a majority of the elderly (Puri, 2004). Studies have shown that caregivers report higher levels of psychological distress as compared to the general population and that patients and their caregivers do not differ significantly in their levels of distress (Northouse & Stetz, 1989). This stress arises in situations of increased uncertainty resulting from life changes, particularly undesirable changes. Uncertainty increases information demands, and these demands may reduce the individuals to process and respond to differentiated affects originating from within and from the external environment. Hodges, Humphris and Macfarlane (2005) report that the level of distress reported by many of those caring for someone with cancer can be equal to or greater than that of the cancer patient (2005). Studies have revealed that caregiving of patients with cancer report having to modify their lifestyles to accommodate the care recipient’s needs including restricting leisure activity and contact with friends and family (Stenberg, Ruland & Miaskowski, 2010).Thus, at a time when caregivers are most in need of the restorative benefits of relaxation, they have the least amount of time and resources available. Further complicating matters, caregivers of cancer patients prioritize the needs of the patient over their own (Williams, 2007).The help rendered by a caregiver can be time consuming and emotionally, physically and psychologically draining. This then contributes a lot of stress on the caregivers (Losada et al., 2009). The available literature on caregiving  suggests that caregiving produces greater  amount of burden and stress (Gupta, Rowe & Pillai, 2009; Gupta & Pillai , 2005) and  when that stress builds up it can result in poor health and depression of the caregiver (Chang , Chiou  & Chen,2009; Edwards & Higgins, 2009).

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