According to Michael Poulin, associate professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo, the fact that spouses often become caregivers for their ailing partners is quite common in American life and few roles are more stressful. Yet, helping behaviors, is at the core of caregiving, typically relieve stress.
“When spending time attempting to provide help can be beneficial for a caregivers’ mental and physical well-being, it is only during those times when the caregiver sees that their help has made a difference and that difference is noticed and recognized by their partner,” he says. Poulin continues saying, “These conclusions are important because we know that spousal caregiving is an enormous burden, emotionally, physically and economically. If we can find ways for community resources to help create those conditions, we might be able to make a difference in the lives of millions of people.”
Poulin indicated that more than 30 years of research shows that being a caregiver is among the most stressful, emotionally burdensome and physically demanding roles a person can take on. Spouses who are caregivers show decreased immune function, increased signs of physiological stress and are at greater risk for physical and mental illness.
The problem is, says Poulin, that when you’re a caregiver, not all your time is spent helping. Sometimes all you can do is witness the persons state while being passively on duty.” The findings of this study suggest that spouses caring for a partner feel happier and report fewer physical symptoms when they believe their help is appreciated.
It was noted in this article that it is an important point to consider, not just for today, but for the future, says Poulin. “As the baby boomers continue to age, this phenomenon of spousal caregiving will continue to increase.”