The term “caregiver” is used to refer to an individual who assists another who cannot act freely due to certain chronic conditions. There are two main types of caregivers: the “informal caregivers” are family members or sympathetic friends who care for impaired older people living at home. The “formal caregivers,” on the other hand, are hired or volunteer workers who are connected either with the health care systems or social service agencies.
The tasks associated with caregiving are grouped under two categories, namely: the ‘Activities of Daily Living” (ADLs) and the “Instrumental Activities of Daily Living” (IADLs). Included under ADLs are activities like getting in or out of bed, taking a bath, getting dressed, and the general toilet use. IADLs, on the other hand, may include meal preparation, general household chores, grocery shopping, and the management of the care receiver’s medication (Nerenberg, 2002).
Studies have shown that the greatest negative consequence to caregiving is “stress” which is believed caused by fatigue due to lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and lack of exercise. Stress is also believed caused by the “burden” being experienced by caregivers. This burden increases as the level of disability of the care receiver increases, thereby needing a greater extent of care. Some quarters suspect that stress is one of the main reasons for caregivers to “go over the edge” and consequently abuse their patients (Nerenberg, 2002). For others, however, stress is not a cause but merely an aggravating factor.
Abuse, which does not only mean physical injury but also includes “mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, sexual abuse or exploitation, or financial exploitation” of defenseless older people, are believed by some to be caused by factors like the caregiver’s frustration, sense of isolation, insufficient support from the community, behavior of the care receiver, and the nature of his or her daily tasks (Bratteli, 2003). Bratteli (2003) offered several legal remedies which are expected to prevent caregiver abuse in care facilities, namely:
• The care receiver should accomplish a “Financial Power of Attorney,” a legal document which would appoint his or her attorney-in-fact who will attend to his or her financial matters. This is usually a trusted relative or friend, the appointment of whom will prevent financial exploitation especially when the care receiver is staying in an institution. • Accomplishment of a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. ” This is another legal document which appoints an agent who will decide for the care receiver on matters of healthcare.
It contains the care receiver’s preferred method of treatment and would prevent neglect on the part of the caregiver in an institution. Nerenberg (2002), on the other hand, pointed to some techniques and services which are now available which could reduce the risk of abuse on the part of caregivers who care for older people at home. According to her, these techniques and services were specifically developed in order to meet the needs of caregivers in terms of assistance and support. One of these is a program aimed at providing relief.
Under this program, employees or volunteer workers visit the patient at home and spend several hours with him or her in order to allow the caregiver to have some rest. Other programs arrange for the care receiver to stay for several days in a care facility to allow the caregiver to enjoy an extended break. Some support services take the form of friendly visits and reassuring telephone calls to address the feeling of isolation by providing “social contact and emotional support. ” These practices also relieve the anxiety being felt by the caregiver.
Finally, caregivers should also be provided with informative materials which would teach them the techniques for reducing stress like exercise and proper diet (Nerenberg, 2002).
References Bratteli, M. (2003). CAREGIVER ABUSE, NEGLECT AND EXPLOITATION: The Journey Through Caregiving. North Dakota Family Caregiver Project, North Dakota State University. Nerenberg, L. (2002). Caregiver Stress and Elder Abuse. National Center on Elder Abuse. Retrieved April 17, 2008 from http://www. ncea. aoa. gov/NCEAroot/Main_Site/pdf/family/caregiver. pdf
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