Distress Screener Assesses Caregivers’ Mental Health Needs & Provides Targeted Support
Our CancerSupportSource Caregiver screener expands the availability of mental health resources in the caregiver population.
Caring for someone with an illness or disability can be accompanied by some of the greatest highs and the most challenging lows. While it is a role that most accept without hesitation when it comes to a loved one, caregiving often bears a heavy weight on the caregiver’s mental and physical health. The unwavering dedication of providing someone else with constant care and support requires a degree of personal sacrifice that can lead to neglect of one’s own health.
Caregiver mental health is an area that is widely overlooked and deserves more attention. The day-to-day stressors of caring for someone, often in an environment of isolation, can quickly wear on one’s mental health. Given these challenging circumstances, it is common for caregivers to experience depression and anxiety. Family Caregiver Alliance reports that an estimated 20% of caregivers experience depression while another 40-70% of caregivers meet clinical signs of depression.
Balancing Personal Life With Caregiving
Just as the degree and type of caregiving varies from person to person, so does the impact of caregiving. The delicate act of balancing one’s personal life and caregiving duties can quickly become strained by long hours and other factors. In a 2021 study, 50% of caregivers provided over 40 hours of care a week on top of their full-time job (Carewell, 2021).
My best advice to other caregivers is to feel all your feelings. Give yourself permission to do what feels right to you. Sometimes a meal out with a friend is exactly what you need while another day canceling your plans may do the trick.
Personal time is imperative for an individual’s overall well-being, especially when fulfilling a role that can be consuming. Spending hours caring for someone with an illness can push a caregiver to neglect enjoying their hobbies, spending free time with friends and family, and investing in acts of self-care — all pivotal elements to maintaining a healthy mind. The interconnected domains within a caregiver’s life can be strained by this decrease in personal time.
Financial concerns, lack of social support, and transportation challenges are some of the root causes of the resulting distress. It is known that mounting responsibilities lead to an increase in stress that creates feelings of exhaustion, anger, and sadness (Family Caregiver Alliance, 2023). Many caregivers are not aware that their health needs attention during this time and that there are resources that can help them.
Mental health resources tailored to caregivers are less prominent than those for people with an illness. Nevertheless, they do exist and are a critical tool that needs greater visibility to reach their target audience. The 2021 study mentioned earlier found that 75% of caregivers had never used local caregiving resources (Carewell, 2021).
Increasing the visibility of caregiver resources is key to making them more accessible to struggling caregivers. Encouraging caregivers to seek help through these resources is the crucial next step to generate change and address the mental burden of caregiving.
Resources for Caregivers
Caregivers can experience fluctuating emotions as they attempt to navigate this complex responsibility. Understanding how to find help and support can be the most important step in maintaining a healthy headspace. There are a variety of specialized resources to give caregivers the support and attention they need.
Being a caregiver is both a beautiful gift and an isolating reality. I cannot imagine being anywhere else at this moment in time. However, I also imagine running away almost every day for one reason or another.
Systematic screening for psychological distress in caregivers is the first step in receiving proper care. Assessing the domains that make up one’s mental health can help determine a curated approach to improve overall mental well-being. Finances, social support, practical issues, and personal wellness should be incorporated into distress screening to address all players that contribute to a caregiver’s mental well-being.
Distress screening is readily available to patients with an illness, but less so in the caregiver population. CSC’s research team has created and validated a caregiver version of the Cancer Support Source™, a validated distress screener for cancer patients. The CSS–Caregiver distress screener is tailored to assess mental health needs of those caring for cancer patients.
The CSS-Caregiver assessment evaluates the caregiver’s concerns about the patient’s health as well as their own. This distress screener allows for the mental health needs of caregivers to be identified and creates a comprehensive care plan tailored to their specific needs. The individuality of the screener ensures that the resources provided are targeted to each caregiver’s needs.
Screening tools like the CSS–Caregiver screener expand the availability of mental health resources in the caregiver population. Acknowledging the gap in caregiver mental health awareness encourages the improvement and availability of resources that can improve their mental well-being.