If you are caring for a loved one or client, you are likely aware that providing care can impact your physical well-being. In fact, the Embracing Carers™ International Survey reported that more than half of the caregivers surveyed felt that their physical health suffered as a result of their caregiving. These painful injuries and musculoskeletal disorders are frequently related to overexerting yourself while providing personal care for your loved one or client. Yet, although physical wellness is vitally important to your overall well-being it is not the only factor that determines your longevity as a caregiver. For example, a significant number of caregivers experience high levels of emotional distress and poor social networks, in addition to poor physical health. The following are three reasons why caregiver wellness is more than being physically fit:
Reason #1. Many caregivers report being isolated with fewer family and friends on whom they can depend resulting in a diminished social network. Isolation can have a negative impact on your health and wellness. In fact, isolated caregivers face negative health outcomes that are equivalent to the biomedical risk factors associated with smoking.
Reason #2. Psychological distress, burden, anger, anxiety, guilt, and depression has been identified as contributing factors to increased susceptibility to infection and disease among caregivers.
Reason #3. Caregivers have a higher mortality rate and are more prone to experience other adverse health outcomes than non-caregivers.

It should be noted that not all caregivers experience negative health outcomes because of their caregiving. In fact, there are nine characteristics shared by caregivers who optimally care for themselves while caring for a loved one or client. These nine characteristics are the nine key components of the Caregiver Wellness: U Model.


The Caregiver Wellness: U Model 

The Caregiver Wellness “U” Model, a conceptual model, incorporates the movement toward social, psychological, physical, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and financial wellness among caregivers, while also incorporating the empowerment and resilience necessary to take charge of one’s health on a holistic basis. The components are not chronological; rather, they represent collective components. 

What makes the Caregiver Wellness: U Model different from other models?

There are two well-known models that have been applied to caregivers Myer’s Wheel of Wellness(a general counseling model) and Gerlarin’s Family Caregiver Wellness model (a career counseling model). While each model can be useful, neither was designed specifically to empower you the caregiver to actively care for yourself. 
The Caregiver Wellness: “U” Model is focuses on two key components: (a) caregivers being empowered and (b) being resilient. The model is applicable to caregivers regardless of the diagnosis of your loved one. The goal of the “U” Model is to express the importance translating self-care into actionable steps once you are empowered as a caregiver. Rather than focus on where you may be lacking it is important to first acknowledge what is being done right. Thus, you are encouraged to build upon your strengths and keep working to reach optimal wellness for yourself and your loved one. 

5 Tips for Improving your Well-being  

Assess your wellness and take action to improve. The “Ask Emma” tool will assist you by: (a) determining your primary strength/ where you are doing best when it comes to self-care, (b) providing you with immediate feedback as to your overall caregiver wellness score, (c) offering suggested strategies and resources to help you achieve optimum wellness.



Build a network of social support. If you do not have extended family nearby or don’t have a supportive family, you can still build a network of friends who can help in the care of your loved one. You are invited to join our new Caregiver Wellness Support Center. The Caregiver Wellness Support Center is a private group designed specifically for caregivers like you. The purpose of the group is to empower you to achieve optimum wellness as you care for a loved one or client. You can join the group by visiting the Caregiver Wellness Support Center and clicking on join the group.
Make sure you are attending to your health. Far too often, as caregivers, we do not schedule or attend to our health. You may feel that you are too busy caring your loved one or client to schedule and then attend medical appointments. It is important that you make time for regular check-ups. Sometimes this means that you will have to plan to have a family member or respite provider (paid or volunteer) care for your loved one while you attend to your personal health and wellness. Please access the MyHealthfinder.govtool that, based on three questions, assists you in determining which preventive services you or a loved one may need this year. 
Take your prescription medications. When your physicians prescribe a medication or treatment, it is important that you take them just as they are prescribed. In nursing, there is a saying that “assistive devices won’t assist if they are not used.” The same rings true for medications. If the medication prescription is not filled, or the medication is sitting in the medicine cabinet or a drawer, it won’t help you. It is almost worse to take a medication for a period, only to quit. Instead, you should take medications as prescribed, unless there is an adverse reaction; then it would be important to contact the doctor. Should you have questions about your medication please consider scheduling a pharmacy and wellness consultation. During a wellness visit with pharmacist will perform a medication reconciliation and review to make sure that your loved one is adhering to his or her drug regimen and experiencing positive results.
Plan quiet relaxation time. Take time to relax quietly, sitting still, with your eyes closed. It is important to take small breaks throughout the day so that you have time away from your immediate stressors. Just sitting and not thinking, not doing, and not talking can release you from your roles and afford you the opportunity to feel refreshed. Arurais a free mindfulness application that you can download to you phone. Once downloaded the Arura app walks you through guided meditation and provides access to coaching, along with other features that are designed to help you relax and to ultimately reduce your distress.   
Finally, it is important that you make a personal commitment to caring for yourself. Should you find that you are in need of assistance please contact Caregiver Support Services.
1Green, E. I. (2010). Caregiver wellness: An inquiry of health risks among frontline direct   caregivers of the elderly. Dissertation Abstracts

International: Section B. Sciences and Engineering, 70(10), 6097.

2Lubben, J. E. (1988). Assessing social networks among elderly populations. Family Community Health, 11, 42–52.
3Vitaliano, P. P., Zhang, J., & Scanlan, J. M. (2003). Is caregiving hazardous to one’s physical health? A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 946–972.