There are many who have the responsibility of caring for an ill spouse or parent/in law; a sick or disabled child, or an old and aging relative. Family members, especially in our country, who are actively caring for an older adult may not often think of themselves as “caregivers”. The focus is entirely on the other person and their needs, with scarcely a thought about the experience of the person who is providing the care.
A caregiver is someone who takes care of another, providing most of the day to day care, on whom much of the physical and psychological stress falls. Caregiving could be voluntary or thrust upon you, nevertheless in either case it is important to recognize this role, and that can help caregivers seek and receive the support they need.
Caregiving can have many rewards, can be immensely satisfying and challenging at the same time. Being there when a loved one needs you is a core value and something you wish to do. Out of love, out of obligation, maybe out of a sense of just doing what’s right, caregiving calls on you to care for someone you love. But just remember you must learn to take care of yourself too.
Some challenges caregivers could face are:
- A lot of time is taken up with duties of care giving
- Other family members also require their attention
- Financial strains
- Sometimes have to manage outside jobs as well
- Little or no time for themselves
Caregivers often feel guilty for not being able to provide caregiving as they would want to; or that they are ignoring the rest of their family or not doing full justice to their job. They just have so much on their plates! The physical and emotional stress of caregiving could result in caregivers stress leading to burnout.
How do you recognise burnout ?
Some signs that you are reaching the point of burnout are:
- Tired and lacking energy
- Often irritated and impatient
- Overwhelmed, worried, anxious
- Too much or too little sleep
- Feeling that caregiving is controlling your life
- Feeling sad, depressed and having mood swings
- Difficulty coping with everyday things
- Frequent headaches, body pain or other physical problems
- Gaining or losing weight
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Increased use of substances
What you can do to prevent stress and burnout
- Ask for & accept help – it doesn’t make you a bad caregiver. Get support from relatives, house help, friends who are willing to pitch in - to do chores or to help care for the one you are caring for.
- No one is a perfect caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can, making the best decisions at any given time
- Give priority to self care - set aside a little time everyday to do something for yourself; take care of your health, spend alone time with your family, spouse, children. Take a walk, visit friends, engage in activities that you like. SELF CARE IS ESSENTIAL, NOT A LUXURY.
- If an opportunity comes for a brief break away from home, consider getting someone to care for your loved one or putting the person in a hospice. Do research and keep options open. The break will recharge you as you continue to care
- Don’t HALT - caregivers should not let themselves get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
- If possible connect with others who are caregiving. You could learn from or contribute to the group, shortcuts, easier ways, helpful tips, that could make your caregiving meaningful, and you a happier person less stressed.