Caregiver Wellness: It's Up to 'U'
BY EBONI GREEN, Ph.D., RN
wellness is more than making sure you are physically and emotionally healthy.
In fact, research from the "Caregiver Wellness Survey", a national survey of
family and professional caregivers, suggests that there are at least nine
important and unique characteristics shared by caregivers who provide the best
possible care for themselves while also caring for loved ones.
these components in mind, the "Caregiver Wellness: U Model" is a conceptual
model aimed at empowering you, the caregiver, to take a
strength-based approach to improving your wellness and increasing your capacity
to care for your loved one.
nine components of the "Caregiver Wellness: U Model" include social,
psychological, physical intellectual, spiritual, occupational and
financial wellness, while also incorporating the empowerment and
resilience, or flexibility, necessary for you to take charge of your health on
a holistic basis.
than look at - and achieve - each wellness factor in order, the components are
designed to complement each other and represent a collective whole. In
other words, at the core of this model is the belief that the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts.
addition, caregiver wellness stresses the importance of viewing wellness as an
ongoing process - a work in progress. As a caregiver, especially for someone
with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, your role is likely to continue
to evolve as your loved one's needs change. Therefore, you must
repeatedly re-evaluate your state of wellness, acknowledge your strengths and
keep on working toward the best possible wellness.
of the "Caregiver Wellness: U Model" as a puzzle. Caregiver wellness can
be divided into three major sections: low-level wellness, medium-level
wellness and high-level or optimum wellness. Your ability to finish each
section and complete the entire puzzle - optimum wellness - is dependent on the
two internal factors of empowerment and resilience, and the one external
factor of timely access to resources.
Low- Level Wellness:
Low-level wellness or caregiver distress is almost always synonymous with
significant points in the caregiving cycle, such as
when a caregiver is first called on to care for a sick or disabled loved one,
crisis situations or care transitions. Low-level wellness is not healthy for
you or your loved one.
each of the parts to the puzzle is present in the wellness model, none of the
pieces connect when a caregivers is in distress.
wellness will likely continue until you are empowered to ask for and
accept help, whether from healthcare professionals, friends or family members.
There is no set time frame, however, for you to move from distress to manageable
stress (medium-level wellness).
transition requires workable solutions, access to information and resources,
and intervention strategies that you deem helpful.
Medium-Level Stress: The
movement from low-level wellness to medium-level wellness or caregiver stress
is dependent on your ability to reach out for and accept assistance for you and
your loved one, and your willingness to try new approaches to the caregiving situation. Self-responsibility is in play.
a caregiver reaches medium-level wellness, the puzzle pieces representing
empowerment and resilience are connected.
stress that accompanies medium-level wellness may not be immediately relieved
until you achieve a level of comfort with interventions and supports. For
example, if a home care agency is not dependable or there is a sudden change in
a loved one's mental or physical status, you may return to a stressful
situation until you once again feel empowered to seek more assistance.
Once adequate supports for your loved one and yourself are in place, you
have the opportunity to move from medium-level wellness to high-level wellness
or optimum wellness. The transition relies on the integration of
empowerment, resilience and reaching a point of stability with physical,
social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational and financial
optimum-level wellness is a process that will take time; it is not recommended
that the integration occur at once, nor is it likely to. The best strategy
is to place continuing emphasis on putting together all of the pieces until the
puzzle is complete.
a Look at 'U'
take this opportunity to assess your level of wellness according to the
model. There are nine questions, each represented by a puzzle piece on the
model. Answer each question openly and honestly. Assign two points if you
agree with the statement and one point if you somewhat agree, and do not
assign any points if you do not agree with the statement.
have positive ways to cope with daily stressors.
am satisfied with the number and quality of social supports available from
family, friends, church and the community.
exercise on a regular basis, participate in physical activity without bodily
pain, and am at a healthy weight; my blood pressure is controlled; and my
alcohol consumption is limited.
actively seek education to improve care for my loved one and apply what I
have learned to improve the health and wellness of myself and my loved one.
feel satisfied with the support I receive in the workplace.
am able to take time away from caregiving to attend
to my spiritual needs.
have access to adequate resources to pay for the care and special needs of my
loved one, my family and myself.
feel fully engaged in implementing behaviors that will aid in successful caregiving.
am able to adjust and adapt in a healthy and flexible way to the
ever-changing roles associated with caring for my loved one.
Your Score on the U Model
A score between 0 and 5 represents
A score between 6 and 9 represents
A score of 10 or higher represents
high-level or optimum wellness.
you have completed the questionnaire, compare your scores to see where you
are doing the best in terms of self-care, and where you might seek help to
assist you in taking better care of yourself and your loved one.
example, if you identify financial security as an area of opportunity for
education, you might consult with a financial planner. The goal would be to
design a financial strategy that benefits the special needs of your loved
one, other family members and yourself.
you unearth a gap in emotional support, you might want to participate in a
support group or an online discussion board to improve your psychological
wellness. Sharing can be a useful way to cope with the emotional demands
associated with caregiving. These forums also offer
the chance to communicate your knowledge about your caregiving
situation, abilities and successes, which is a great way to reinforce the
positive aspects of your role.
the results from your self-assessment can help you reach the goal of optimum
wellness is up to U!
-- EBONI GREEN