Who’s At Risk? Self-Assessment Helps Families Avoid Caregiver Distress

Can caring for your loved one put you at risk for serious health issues? Two new tools were launched today to help answer that question. Millions of Canadians caring for a senior can now assess whether they may be at risk for emotional and physical issues, including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even obesity.

More than two million Canadians currently provide care to a loved one with chronic health problems or disabilities.1 Seventy per cent of caregivers acknowledge that providing care to their loved one has an impact on their stress levels2 and rates of caregiver distress are significantly higher among caregivers caring for a loved one with severe cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s or related dementias.3

In response to this growing healthcare issue, your local Home Instead Senior Care® office has launched a public awareness campaign – Family Caregiver Stress ReliefSM at FamilyCaregiverStressRelief.com – to help family caregivers determine if they are at risk for distress and to provide methods to minimize problems before they escalate.

Included in the program are two new tools: The Are You a Caregiver quiz, which is designed to help a family caregiver self-identify and recognize the role of a caregiver, and the Family Caregiver Distress Assessment, developed by Dr. Peter Vitaliano of the University of Washington, which allows caregivers to determine their risk for distress and resulting emotional and physical issues, including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

kathy and dad talking 2 (1)“So many spouses and adult children are unaware of their potential risk of caregiver distress because they don’t see themselves as caregivers,” said Lesley Sullivan, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Ottawa. “These new resources enable them to understand their role, the stresses they may face as a caregiver, and how that stress might lead to more serious health effects.”

Research from Dr. Vitaliano shows that certain characteristics make family caregivers more vulnerable to caregiver distress, some of those being:

Gender: Women caregivers report feeling more physiological stress than men.

Number of hours of care: Caregivers who provide 21 hours or more of care per week are four times more likely to show signs of caregiver distress than those who provide 10 hours or less per week.  

Lack of choice: Caregivers who felt they had no choice in taking on this role, younger caregivers, those looking after a parent or spouse, and those performing a greater number of caregiving tasks are most likely to experience stress.

“It’s important for caregivers to understand that stress can impact one’s ability to care,” said Sullivan.

“If they don’t care for themselves, they may put their senior loved ones at risk. Whether it’s support groups, stress management techniques or respite help, caregivers need to realize the importance of managing their health, too.”

For more information about the services of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Ottawa, call 613-599-6906 or visit www.homeinsteadottawa.ca/


1 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Supporting Informal Caregivers – The Heart of Home Care. https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/Caregiver_Distress_AIB_2010_EN.pdf

2Health Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/pubs/home-domicile/2002-caregiv-interven/index-eng.php  

3Health Canada.