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Maintaining the strength to care and keeping the will to give

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Story by Frances Seybold on 03/23/2018
Story by Jeremy Beale

Similar to members of the military, caregivers are great examples of selflessness, because they help individuals who need assistance with activities of daily living that most of us take for granted such as tying shoes, taking a shower and even eating.
Caregivers are a critical national health care resource and typically family members such as a spouse or grandparent are often the primary source of home care and support for those needing care.
The term caregiver can include anyone, from a parent taking care of an infant, to someone providing care for an individual with an illness, injury, or disability, to the person who provides care for an aging parent.
All are caregivers, and none of them are exempt from burnout.
According to the Family Caregiving Alliance (FAC), on average, caregivers spend between 24 to 45 hours a week caring for their loved ones, with more than half the caregivers working full-time.
Caregiver burnout is the progression of caregiver burden to the point where the experience is no longer a viable or healthy option for either the caregiver or the person receiving care. Caregiver burnout can also be referred to as "compassion fatigue."
Symptoms of burnout may include irritability, decreasing ability to function, pulling back from normal activities, cancelling plans, physical aches and pains or increase of aches and pains, feeling bored and apathetic, physical fatigue, memory problems, depression and other signs commonly associated with stress.
FAC found 70 percent of caregivers experience work-related difficulties due to their dual roles, with approximately half of caregivers feeling they have no choice about taking on the responsibilities. About the same percentage, caring for a family member or friend, report having to rearrange their work schedule, decrease hours or take an unpaid leave in order to meet their responsibilities.
According to the National Center of Biological Information, assuming a care giving role can be stressful and burdensome as the task has all the features of a chronic stress experience because it frequently requires high levels of vigilance.
Care giving can create physical and psychological strain over extended periods of time, accompanied by high levels of unpredictability and uncontrollability. Secondary stress can also build inside work and family relationships.
"For many caregivers managing the care of a family member, anything that disrupts the familiar routine can be an added stress. Consider the impact of a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move on a military family," said Amy Watson, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) training, education, and outreach specialist. "The family routines are changed, there's tremendous uncertainty about available supports at a new duty station and the list keeps going."
EFMP is a vital resource for the Quantico community to use for caregivers tending to individuals, specifically the needs of child dependants.
According to Watson, the primary mission of the EFMP is to provide a continuum of care, so that when a family with an Exceptional Family Member (EFM) is moving, a caseworker at the current installation can connect the family to the next installation's EFMP office.
However the first and most vital step is recognizing burnout is happening and taking inventory of personal feelings.
If a caregiver begins displaying signs of stress or fatigue, they need to start thinking about how to treat the problem.
Watson suggests reaching out to family and friends for help, finding emotional and physical support structures or planning regular breaks.
"For many people, a half day off can do a world of good," she said. "But, most importantly, finding resources within the community will help."
There are lots of programs available through Marine Corps Community Services for caregivers as well as those they care for.
For families board Quantico, caseworkers can assist with finding and accessing resources.
"Caregivers need to know, they are not the only one, that they are not alone," Watson said. "Whether it's a deployment, or the exhaustion of having a new baby in the house, it's always nice to know that you're not the only person on the planet experiencing something, and that your reactions are normal."
Marines or family members are welcome to walk-in or call ahead to make an appointment with EFMP. The office is located in Little Hall and office hours are Monday through Friday, 7a.m. to 5p.m. The office can be reached at 571-931-0524.
EFMP encourages families to work closely with their assigned family case worker, to build rapport and to develop a relationship of trust because family case workers are best able to assess the unique needs of each family.
Typically, a family case worker will contact each family quarterly through a combination of phone, email or in-person visits, but families are always encouraged to contact their family case worker whenever they need or desire assistance.


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