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“It turns out that the effects of caregiving for a sick pet – burden, stress, anxiety, depression, low quality of life – are in many ways similar to what we see in a person caring for a sick family member, for example, a parent with dementia,” Spitznagel said. “In the case of this study, burden is at a high enough level that for some people, it could be causing symptoms of anxiety and, more likely, depression
…Spitznagel said more work is needed to determine how to best help burdened pet caregivers, but the first step is to help people recognize that taking care of their pet is likely to take a personal toll on their own lives. “They need to know that it is okay to feel stressed out by the situation,” she said. “Acknowledging the stress doesn’t mean they love their pet any less.”
Even when the gift is willingly given, providing care for a sick loved one can cause strain in multiple ways–mental, physical, social, and financial, to name a few. Caregiver burden is a term used to describe the stress a person experiences while providing care for a relative who is ill. A person in this situation often “gives until it hurts.”
Caregiver burden has been studied in family members providing care for loved ones with a variety of diseases. And even though pets are not people, more than 85% of us view Fido and Mittens as part of the family. So it would make sense that when a pet has a chronic or terminal illness—especially one that requires some form of daily care—the owner might experience burden, as well. Yet no researchers had previously asked this question.