Care of the Caregiver

Chronic disease doesn’t just affect the person suffering from the illness. It can also be hugely stressful for their partner whose role becomes one of long term ‘carer’.

“A key factor that can protect ‘carers’ against the stress involved is to perceive their relationship with their ill spouse as an entity in itself, rather than seeing only two individuals.”


Ninety-two people who cared for a chronically ill husband or wife answered questions.

…participants who said being ‘part of a couple’ was central to the way they saw themselves, appeared to be protected from the effects of stressors such as: loss of companionship, feeling unable to cope, and wishing they were free to run away.

That is, among these participants with a strong ‘couple identity’, such stressors appeared to have a far weaker effect on their mental health.

Moreover, feeling part of a couple appeared to accentuate the positive aspects of being a carer, such as having high self-esteem and feeling competent.

“Viewing the relationship as an extension of oneself may help foster a positive mindset about the caregiving experience. BPS Research Digest blog

An issue that is ignored by most friends and family, and by most healthcare professionals, the caregiver can be made ill in the process of providing care.

The condition and competence of a Caregiver is a matter of health and disease too. For caregivers, the stress process is multifaceted. There are primary stressors, deprivation and overload, and secondary stressors, loss of self and captivity.

We need a better focus on the ‘family system’ to help prevent much suffering and loss. Healthcare systems should consider more than the ill patient as part of the disease diagnosis. Today, services are allocated on behalf of the revenue at hand. A better use of our capital in medical care would be to help prevent a future liability from a damaged caregiver.