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Caring for the caregivers

Written by: Ms Wong Soh San, Assistant Nurse Clinician/ Diabetes Educator & Dr. Tan Ming Yeong, Diabetes Nurse Specialist

What is caregiver burnout?

Diabetes Mellitus is a life-long condition. Living with diabetes and its daily management often involves multiple physical and psychological challenges that can affect many aspects of the life of people with diabetes and their family/caregivers.1,2 The caregiving demands increases if the person with diabetes are partially or fully dependent on their care from the caregivers such as the young, the old or those with diabetes complications. These demands leave caregivers vulnerable to physical and emotional distress that can affect their health and quality of life.3 Caregivers refer to anyone who provide care to another person.

Key Takeaway:

Family caregivers can be vulnerable to physical and emotional distress that can affect their health and quality of life.
Factors that caused diabetes distress

Diabetes distress or burnout refers to the hidden emotional burdens and worries that developed when managing diabetes on a day-to-day basis. Diabetes care that contributes to distress or burnout include

1. Lack of knowledge and skills.

2. The need for regular schedule in medication intake and meal time.

3. Changes in eating habits, meal choices and preparation.

4. Changes in lifestyle, emotional swing, frustration, anger shown by the person with diabetes.

5. Financial stress.

These roller coaster of emotional distress not only affect the person living with diabetes but the effect spreads throughout the family and caregivers.

Key Takeaway:

Diabetes distress & emotional burn out not only affect the person with diabetes, but it spreads throughout their family and caregivers.
The warning sign of caregiver burnout

Caregiving is often a long-term challenge with emotional impact that can be snowballing over time. When the stress of caregiving builds up and left unchecked, it can impact the caregivers’ health, relationships, and state of mind which can eventually lead to physical and emotional burnout. Studies reported caregiver burnout is associated with inadequate care provided by the caregivers that could impact the outcome of the person with diabetes they cared for.4 Below are information’s about how to detect caregivers’ stress and some suggestions on coping.5

You may have caregiver stress and burnout if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms:
How to cope with caregiver burnout?
Avoid caregiver burnout by feeling empowered:
Talk to your healthcare providers if you are experiencing caregiver stress or burnout. They are able to assist and support by providing information and available resources. Some support structures available include:

The demands of caregiving can be exhausting and overwhelming. The well-being of caregivers is important because the person with diabetes depend on them for care and support. Helping caregivers in managing stress, regain their sense of balance, joy, and hope in life will impact on the quality of life of people with diabetes and clinical outcomes. The best thing caregivers can do for the person they are caring is to ensure his/her own physically and psychological wellbeing.

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1 Funnell MM, Bootle S, Stuckey HL. The Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs second study. Clinical Diabetes 2015;33:32–36.

2 Jorwal P, Verma R, Balhara YS. Psychological health of caregivers of individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A cross-sectional comparative study. Journal of Social Health Diabetes 2015;3:95-101.

3 Galarraga MM, Llhana S (2018) Quality of life for carers of people with type 2 diabetes: A literature review. Journal of Diabetes Nursing 22: JDN006.

4 King A, Ringel JB, Safford MM, et al. Association Between Caregiver Strain and Self-Care Among Caregivers With Diabetes. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(2):e2036676. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.36676.

5 Caring for the Caregiver Diabetes Spectrum Jan 2004, 17 (1) 37; DOI: 10.2337/diaspect.17.1.37 Available: https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/17/1/37

6 Malaysian Mental Health Association, https://mmha.org.my/find-help/caregiver-peer-support-service

7 Mayo Clinic, Caring for a loved one with diabetes https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/caring-for-a-loved-one-with-diabetes/faq-20424136

8 American Diabetes Association, https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/loved-ones-caregivers

9 National Diabetes Service Scheme, https://www.ndss.com.au/about-diabetes/resources/find-a-resource/caring-for-someone-with-diabetes-for-family-and-friends-fact-sheet/

10 Family Caregiver Alliance, https://www.caregiver.org

11 Elder Advisory Group, Diabetes: Focus on Caregiver Support https://www.elderadvisorygroup.com/2015/11/04/caregiver/

12 Anxiety Canada, https://www.anxietycanada.com