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Learning modules

Activity 8: Caregiver needs

Sources of stress for caregivers

A life-limiting illness can impact on the well-being and function of an entire social network. Evidence shows that caregivers who care for people with life-limiting illnesses may be adversely affected if they're not adequately prepared for, or don't have the resources to undertake, the caregiving role.

Sources of stress for caregivers may include:

  • uncertainty about treatment
  • lack of knowledge about care
  • role changes in the family
  • strained financial resources
  • physical restrictions
  • threats to own health, well-being and sense of self
  • lack of social support
  • fear of being alone
  • inability to plan other aspects of their life because of uncertain prognosis
  • emotional and physical burnout.

While caring for people with life-limiting illnesses can provide personal and physical challenges for caregivers, many report positive experiences. Many caregivers find there's meaning to their caregiving role and get satisfaction from knowing they're doing a good job. They may also feel closer to the person they are caring for. [1]

About home care

For the majority of people with life-limiting illnesses, the preferred place of care, during the course of life-limiting illnesses, is at home. Factors determining the level of community services required to care for a person at home include:

  • availability and ability of the caregiver
  • the person's physical condition, particularly his or her level of mobility
  • the physical environment of the home
  • the level of health and social services available
  • the nature of the relationship between the ill person and their caregiver.

When to use respite care

There may be periods throughout the course of the life-limiting illness where home care becomes difficult. In these situations, respite care and other support mechanisms should be considered.

Respite care offers the caregiver a break from the caring role. Health care professionals see respite care as a good way of minimising the burden and strain on the caregiver. However, the caregiver and the person receiving care are often uncertain about the offer.

Caresearch also provides useful information about the impact of caregiving. [2]

Thinking points


1.Palliative Care Australia. (2004). The hardest thing we have ever done - the social impact of caring for terminally ill people in Australia. Canberra: Palliative Care Australia. Retrieved September 15, 2010, from

2. CareSearch. (2009). Looking after someone. Retrieved September 15, 2010, from