What is caregiver burnout exactly and how can physical therapy help decrease it?
It is important to realize that caregiver burnout is not an episode, but it's a cycle. Caregiver burnout happens at many stages and seasons throughout their caregiving journey. It's our job as professionals to attempt to disrupt the cycle as frequently and as often as we can by providing the caregiver the tools to identify where they are in the cycle and to disrupt it on their own. Caregiver burnout is not preventable, but it can be drastically mitigated and reduced.
Research shows that physical therapy intervention:
- Decreases physical injury to caregivers
- Increases quality of life for caregivers due to increased client mobility and strength
- Decreases caregiver distress by increasing the safety and function of the client
- Indirect relationship in decreasing client behaviors due to increased participation in ADL and IADLs
Research has shown that physical therapy intervention can assist with caregiver burnout by disrupting that cycle by decreasing physical injury to caregivers. Of all disciplines, physical therapy is the primary discipline that can assist with preventing back injuries, neck injuries, and any other associated pain from caring for loved ones. Physical therapy also can increase the quality of life for caregivers due to the increased mobility and strength of the client and decrease caregiver distress by increasing safety and the function of the client.
There's an indirect relationship between decreasing client behaviors due to increased participation in ADL and IADLs. As a physical therapist, you may feel that don't deal with decreasing client behaviors. That's the furthest thing from the truth. I believe that absolutely, you do because, in most behaviors, there is a root cause of the behavior. Oftentimes, the root cause of a behavior is that the patient is trying to say that he or she wants to be more independent in the area, wants to be able to do something, or is experiencing pain and can't communicate that.
Oftentimes, the root cause of behaviors is related to function, mobility, and pain, and those are all things that physical therapists directly deal with.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Decreasing Caregiver Burnout, by Mira Rollins, OTR/L