| Tue, Aug 27, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

Caregiver’s Need Quality of Life, Too

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

quality of lifeAn article by caregiver expert Dr. Jamie Huysman, Vice President, UnitedHealthcare

What is “quality of life”? For most, it refers to how much one enjoys all that life has to offer. Each of us is presented with both opportunities and limitations in life. The quality of experience within those parameters is a measure of an individual’s quality of life.

As a caregiver, you may be naturally attuned to your loved one’s quality of life. That is as it should be. But this attunement may keep you from attending to the opportunities and limitations in your own life, including in your role as a caregiver. As a result, your personal quality of life may suffer. And when you are not at your best, you may not be able to give your best to your loved one.

A Quality of Life Model

Researchers from the Centre for Health Promotion at the University of Toronto created a quality of life model. It offers a way to think about and assess quality of life.

The model encompasses three life domains—the three B’s. Each domain has physical, psychological and spiritual aspects.

  • Being is about who you are and how you show up in the world. Some things in this domain are physical health, feelings, self-esteem, coping skills, values and beliefs.
  • Belonging speaks to one’s connection to home, work and community as well as to the people in our lives, such as family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and support groups. Financial well-being and access to health and social services also fall into the Belonging bucket.
  • Becoming is about hope, aspirations and achieving goals. It includes home and leisure activities, taking care of one’s needs, adapting to change and activities that build knowledge and skills.

Caregivers and the Three B’s

Let’s consider the three B’s as they relate to you in your caregiver role. Use the model to think about your current level of enjoyment in each domain—each “B”—of your life. It’s also helpful to consider what’s important to you at this time. If something is not very important right now, then enjoyment in that area may not matter much to you.

Here are some questions to get you started.

Caregiver Being: How do you feel about being a caregiver? Does it fit with your personal values and beliefs? How are your coping skills serving you? How are you dealing with your feelings about yourself as a caregiver—both positive and negative? Are you taking care of your own body—eating well and getting some kind of exercise?

Caregiver Belonging: How do you express your caregiver role with your family and your loved one’s health care team? What kinds of support do you need, and are you getting it? What might you be missing out on because of the time and energy you give to caregiving? How are your personal, professional and intimate relationships being affected by your caregiver role?

Caregiver Becoming: How is being a caregiver helping you grow as an individual? What are you learning that may benefit you in the future? How has being a caregiver changed you, your values or your beliefs? How are you adapting to the changes your caregiver role has brought into your life?

If you identify parts of your life that you are not enjoying as much as you’d like, consider what you might do to make it better. In the Being domain for example, it might be as simple as getting out for a walk most days. In the Becoming domain, you might take a moment each day to be grateful that you can be with and help your loved one in a time of need.

Your Loved One and the Three B’s

You can use the three B’s to consider your loved one’s quality of life, too. Here are just a few examples of how you, as a caregiver, may help enhance your loved one’s quality of life.

  • Being: Take steps to preserve your loved one’s dignity (ask questions, listen to needs and concerns, provide care based on your loved one’s terms and not your own)
  • Belonging: Involve your loved one in making decisions and choices about his or her life and care (what treatments to have, where to live, what to eat, who can visit, what to do for entertainment)
  • Becoming: Promote your loved one’s independence (encourage every effort at any level of independence, refrain from doing things that your loved one can do for himself or herself, avoid treating your loved one like a child)

Caregiving can be both a challenge and a gift. Viewing it through a quality of life lens may help you see the potential for each day to be the best it can be.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources

Caregiver Corner: Necessary Conversations Part 1: Get tips on how to talk to your loved one about long-term care.

The Three B’s of Caregiving: Watch Dr. Huysman’s video to learn more about the three B’s.

Medicare.gov: Visit the official U.S. government site for Medicare.