ASSESSING CAREGIVER WELLNESS
A recent study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management showed that health systems are increasingly depending on family caregivers to deliver complex care. Social isolation has added stress to those caregivers.
The Journal made several recommendations worth reviewing. The three that struck me were:
The need to consider family caregivers as essential caregivers and provide them with the PPE and other support they need.
The need to assess caregiver wellness through risk assessments and checklists.
The need to thank caregivers, reassure them that they are doing everything they can, and encourage them to leverage their social networks in whatever way that is helpful and safe.
It’s easy for people to say, “take care of yourself.” However, most caregivers do not know where to start when it comes to self-care.
I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Eboni Green about assessing caregiver wellness. She is a Registered Nurse and family caregiver and co-founder of Caregiver Support Services, a non-profit organization that trains and supports family and frontline caregivers.
Caregiver wellness is multi-faceted and goes beyond physical wellness. It includes social, spiritual, psychological, physical, occupational, financial, and intellectual wellness. Resilience and empowerment are part of it as well.
Why Assessment Is Important
A caregiver assessment allows you to see what you are doing well and then take the opportunity to look at one or two things that might help enhance your ability to care. By self-assessing, we have a greater opportunity to be empowered to improve our health outcomes.
Dr Green utilizes the “Ask Emma” Caregiver Wellness Assessment Tool. Based on research from the national “Caregiver Wellness Survey” and the Caregiver Wellness “U-Model,” the “Emma” tool stresses the importance of viewing wellness as an ongoing process – a work in progress.
Therefore, you must repeatedly re-evaluate your state of wellness, acknowledge your strengths and keep on working toward the best possible wellness.
It is a tool where you answer a series of questions, and then “Emma” lets you know where your strengths are and suggests one area where you might be able to improve or enhance your well-being. The tool is very engaging no matter the diagnosis of your loved one.
Caregiving situations change over time and so revisiting the tool at a different point may give you different results and another area where you might have some really good suggestions for improving your health and well-being as a caregiver.
Caregiver Wellness Model
In conjunction with “Emma,” Dr. Green utilizes a caregiver wellness model that looks at wellness holistically, taking into account physical wellness, psychological wellness, social wellness, spiritual wellness, intellectual wellness, financial wellness, and occupational wellness along with empowerment and resilience.
The empowerment piece is very important because it helps you to understand the importance of and how to reach out and ask for help when you need it. Caregivers are often reluctant to do that.
Here is the great part: the tool is free. Here is just a preview of some of the areas addressed by “Emma”:
Occupational Wellness: I have a clear understanding of my workplace employee assistance program.
Physical Wellness: I 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.
Psychological Wellness: I am fully able to experience (feel) a wide range of feelings such as joy, excitement, happiness, peacefulness, fear, anger, sadness, and hopelessness.
Spiritual Well-being: I am able to take time away from caregiving to attend to my spiritual needs.
Once you take the assessment, you’ll receive a confirmation email that will include a link so that you can go back and revisit your results at a later time.
Achieving Optimum Wellness
Dr. Green works with clients to achieve Optimal Wellness. It’s when you start to really look at your caregiving situation and find some level of stability. You have adequate services in the home. You have a good idea as far as medications and doctors’ appointments. It’s about creating a balance in your own life.
Are you a caregiver? How would you define your own wellness? Have you heard of “Emma” before? Have you used it? What is your wellness according to “Emma”? Which areas need improvement? Please share how you are dealing with your health and wellness while caregiving.