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The term caregiver burden refers to the physical, social, mental, emotional and financial impact, that caring for a disabled or an ill, has on an individual.

This term is usually used for informal or unpaid caregivers that constitute the family members, friends or close neighbours.

The age and reasons for needing care,     of care recipients vary greatly. They can be children with Autism, Rett Syndrome or other birth defects or impairments, adults who have suffered a stroke or disabling injuries or aged people with osteoarthritis, dementia, alzheimer’s disease, etc.

Variables that control the burden :

The amount of caregiver burden is governed by many variables like age, gender, employment status of the caregiver; the level of impairment and assistance that the care-recipient needs, the social support available to the caregiver. More assistance means more burden, evidence shows that female caregivers feel more burden than males, older caregivers report more burden than younger ones and also employed caregivers feel more burden. An extended support from the social circle is known to reduce the burden of the caregiver.

Caregiver burden can be

1) Objective -> It refers to the physical, social, mental, emotional and financial impact that the task of caregiving has on the caregiver. For e.g. less time for social recreational activities, for personal care, less time for career, etc.

2) Subjective -> It refers to the physical, social, mental, emotional and financial impact that the feelings of caregiving role has on an individual. For e.g. some people may feel deeply satisfied and some may feel like being trapped or forced in a caregiver’s role.

A higher level of burden on the caregivers may result in depression, increased anxiety levels and other physical and mental problems. It also increases the chances of the caregiver putting the care-recipient in a professional care facility like adult- care, residential facilities etc.

How to Assess and Reduce the Caregiver Burden :

Multi-item scales like Zarit Burden Interview also known as Caregiver Burden Index or the Burden scale and Caregiver Strain Index (CSI) etc. are used to assess the various difficulties that a caregiver experiences.

After assessing the burdens proper interventions can be planned to reduce them. Interventions that target multiple aims like reducing the problem behaviour of the care receiver, introducing outside care, increasing the knowledge of the caregiver about various care techniques, motivating the caregiver to develop problem-solving strategies etc. are known to have most positive effect on reducing the burden of the caregivers.

          Vidhi Pipara Adolescent Psychologist – Guidance on personal or psychological problems in Ahmedabad,Gujarat and India.

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