Coping with caregiving is never easy. And , at some point, most people end up becoming a caregiver. According to newsinhealth, about 43 million U.S. adults provide unpaid care for someone with a serious health condition each year. Such home caregivers,  as noted by NHSUK, face many challenges – including practical, financial and emotional factors.

Ensuring that caregivers receive appropriate support from communities and healthcare providers is a crucial task for communications.

Family caregivers assist patients with everyday tasks and emotional support, such as meals, schedules, bathing and dressing. The role can also include managing medication, doctor visits, health insurance and, not least, money.  Some, for example elderly caregivers, face special risks and challenges to provide informal care.

In short, while many caregivers find joy and fulfilment, the consequent strain may overwhelm them.

Creating social support for caregivers

For caregivers, part of the solution lies in mobilising effective social support from friends, family and the wider community. Existing research confirms this requirement. Social support refers to the various types of support (i.e., assistance/help) that people receive from others and is generally classified into two (sometimes three) major categories: emotional and instrumental (and sometimes informational) support. These kinds of support served as “protective” factors to help protect these vulnerable people from the negative effects of stress (University of Twente, 2018).

Confronted with stress and emotions such as guilt, helplessness and anger, emotional and structured informational support is vital.  This may come from family members, friends, religious organizations, online and offline support groups and professional assistance.

According to APOS’s 2015 caregiver poster, family and friends are the first sources from which to seek support for most caregivers. However, they build up a variety of trusted sources of information, though most prioritise doctors/ nurses and the Internet.

Inspired examples

Alzheimer’s Disease International published useful and concrete data, a perfect example of reliable informational support, onhow to aid family support groups, community support and self-help groups to take care of family members affected by dementia. The resource includes practical tips on managing dementia along with more specific information and advice for carers to utilise.

The case for the benefit of social support to caregivers can be seen in a recent case in Kent. Social workers were supporting a client called “Amanda” and, with the guidance of her care coordinator, had discussed a record of what specific care needs she required. This produced a custom tailored approach to supporting her and her family increasing her confidence in these support structures and contributing to the ethos of treating the patient like a person rather than a condition (King, 2018).

The care coordinator and Amanda’s family also made an integrative care plan for Amanda. Depending on her family’s caregiving needs, it allowed her family to receive updates on her condition as and when they need them. This more individual and “person-centered”

care services approach was vastly more efficient and very well received by both “Amanda” and her family.  

A better way to communicate

Understanding of to where and how caregivers turn for information and support is essential to ensure successful and effective communications. Better relationships between social support and health outcomes will only become a reality if staff, service users, caregivers and the public are fully informed and engaged with proposed reforms. Social support resources and services should be tailored to the caregiver’s demands and include evaluation on the type of support to be offered (Wittenberg-Lyles et al., 2013).