By Tobi Johnston M.A., M.S.W., Program Manager for the Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors
There are many issues facing caregivers today. They balance the daily demands of caring for a loved one in addition to dealing with their own health and financial worries. Caregivers may also have to juggle the responsibilities of work, a relationship with a spouse or significant other, raising children and trying to maintain ongoing relationships with siblings and close friends. As a result of these demands, many caregivers become overwhelmed in dealing with their situation. They are so caught up in the daily grind they don’t recognize the warning signals of burnout, which can include extreme fatigue, isolation, lack of rest, irritability, and frustration over a lack of free time. When this occurs caregivers often get stuck in an unhealthy cycle of fatigue, hopelessness, and depression without seeing a way forward.
Recognizing this concern, the BC Ministry of Health Patients as Partners Program, through the Centre for Collaboration, Innovation and Motivation, The Family Caregivers of BC and many regional caregiving practitioners are adopting and integrating Brief Action Planning (BAP) to create positive change for caregivers throughout the province. BAP is grounded in the principles and practice of motivational interviewing and the behavioural change psychology. BAP is a structured way of interacting with individuals interested in making a concrete action plan to improve some aspect of their situation. In clinical terms, BAP is a structured, patient centred, stepped-care self-management support technique based on a series of three core interview questions and five specific skills. The aim of BAP is to move you from “stuck” to motivated action no matter how small your goal is. The overall goal of BAP is to help you create an action plan for self-management that you feel confident you can achieve.
The success and benefits of BAP have been widely documented but what does this mean for caregivers and practitioners in the caregiving field? BAP provides caregivers a way to take action to improve their wellbeing. BAP doesn’t set out to fix all the problems caregivers face, but it does provide a way to focus on something positive and important in their lives, whether it be eating healthier, getting more exercise or simply trying to carve out five minutes for themselves.
In setting these goals a specific plan is then adopted with times, frequency, and dates—real, measurable outcomes that the caregiver is in control of and has identified themselves. For practitioners in the caregiving field, BAP can serve as an extremely useful tool to help caregivers move forward, make a plan and improve their situation. Caregivers and practitioners alike can reveal a positive and hopeful path forward by adopting BAP.
Wherever you live in British Columbia, you can receive help developing a BAP of your own. Simply call the Family Caregivers of BC’s toll-free Caregiver Support Line (1-877-520-3267) and mention this article.