The role of a spousal caregiver brings with it many ups and downs, along with a sense of meaning and purpose. Though, in addition to the sense of fulfillment that caregiving can bring, it’s also known to be one of the most challenging endeavors in life.
In fact, over 30 years of research has revealed that caregiving is one of the most emotionally and physically demanding roles a person can take on. Read more about how caregiver appreciation can alleviate some of the burden placed on spousal caregivers.
Burden Experienced by Spousal Caregivers
As a caregiver, you have more than likely heard about “caregiver stress.” It’s a common condition brought on when caregivers spend too many hours caring for a loved one, while not paying ample attention to one’s own emotional, physical or social needs.
According to Michael Poulin, Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo, Department of Psychology, “Spousal caregiving is an enormous burden, emotionally, physically and economically,” he says. “If we can find ways for community resources to help… those conditions we might be able to make a difference in the lives of millions of people.”
Poulin’s latest research found that specific circumstances could have a very beneficial impact on caregiver stress:
“Believe it or not, the helping behaviors involved in spousal caregiving were found (under certain circumstances) to relieve stress in the caregivers,” says Poulin.
He continues, “Spending time attempting to provide help can be beneficial for a caregivers’ mental and physical well-being, but only during those times when the caregiver sees that their help has made a difference and that difference is noticed and recognized by their partner,” stated Poulin.
Study Shows That Appreciation Lowers Burden for Spousal Caregivers
A Yale School of Public Health study published in the American Psychology Association’s journal, Health Psychology, revealed that appreciation does lower the caregiving burden for spousal caregivers.
Researchers conducted two studies with spouses caring for their partners; the first involved 73 participants who reported their emotional reactions to activities performed during caregiving — every three hours. Researchers were able to evaluate specific activities linked to emotions at various intervals throughout the day. The second study involved 43 caregivers who kept a detailed account (in a written diary) at the end of each day spent providing caregiving tasks. They noted the care they provided, as well as the appreciation they received.
Researchers examined the results and found that when a spouse cares for a loved one and feels appreciated in return, they have fewer physical ailments and a higher level of happiness — compared to those who did not feel appreciated. The study authors say of the research:
“This study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that it is important to target emotional communication between spouses in daily support interactions to improve psychological well-being in the context of chronic conditions and disability.”
Have you experienced the positive effects documented in this study by spousal caregivers? We’d like to hear more about your caregiving experiences in the comments below.