Families and caregivers of children with chronic medical conditions face complex challenges and extended stress. Providing long-term care for a child with a disability or chronic illness can take a physical, emotional, and financial toll. It also requires a time commitment that can be difficult to achieve.
As a pediatric health-care provider, you “have a responsibility to recognize caregiver burden (Adelman, Tmanova, Delgado, Dion & Lachs, 2014). Research has shown that caregivers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and other negative health effects of what can be a crushing responsibility. At each pediatric checkup, make it part of your routine to inquire whether family or caregivers have questions or concerns about their roles, their own health, or navigating the health-care system.
The health of your young patients and the health of their caregivers are interwoven.
Caregivers who feel overwhelmed may not be able to provide appropriate care for a child in need. You must be alert to outcries for help or signs of health problems related to caregiving, including loss of sleep and diet imbalance. Open communication allows you to be a sounding board for caregivers who are struggling with their duties. At the same time, be on the watch for signs of fatigue or stress in caregivers who try to project an “all’s well” attitude even when they are having problems.
Your role includes providing practical counseling about stress and offering resources designed to help families and caregivers cope.
Top 10 Caregiver Coping Skills
Sharing this Top Ten list of coping skills can help caregivers learn strategies that may reduce stress:
- Understand your feelings.
- Express your emotions.
- Educate yourself about your child’s illness or condition.
- Keep communications open.
- Talk to other parents.
- Focus on the strengths and goals that are achievable.
- Believe in your child.
- Establish routines.
- Maintain your sense of humor! There is no co-pay for laughter!!
- Remember that taking care of yourself is caring for your family.
Source: Parent to Parent of New York State
Resources to share with families and caregivers
Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) operated by Texas Health and Human Services (Texas HHS). The centers are welcoming and offer information about state and federal health benefits as well as local programs and services. The trained staff can connect caregivers with services such as home care, meals, transportation, legal help, attendant care, respite support, and housing. Visit the ADRC website for a list of resource center locations in Texas.
Family Support Services, a program to help families care for children with special health-care needs at home. Services are provided by the Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) Services Program, a branch of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Navigate Life Texas, a multilingual website created by parents for parents of children with disabilities and special health-care needs. This unique site offers comprehensive, relevant, and reliable information for families, professionals, advocates, and anyone working with children who have disabilities and their families. Sponsored by the Texas Interagency Task Force on Children with Special Needs.
Take Time Texas, a website offered by Texas HHS that includes a state inventory of respite services.
Texas Parent to Parent offers peer support for parents of children with special health-care needs.