To care for those who once cared for you is the highest honour

A caregiver is an individual who helps someone with physical and psychological needs. Usually, a family member or a loved one is the caregiver for a patient. In most cases, adult children act as the family caregiver to their elders. Or local organizations and community resources also have people volunteering as a caregiver. When a person cannot care for their health, the caregiver’s role is essential. Battling chronic and mental illnesses can be highly challenging. And conditions related to old age need utmost care. Caregiving duties can include helping the patient with various day-to-day activities and sometimes acting as emotional support for a patient.

While caregiving can be profoundly fulfilling as crises bring loved ones closer, it can also take a toll on the individual. One has to deal with the grief of seeing a loved one in pain and be a part of the ups and downs of their illness. While it is rewarding to be a caregiver and is a central tenet of most people’s core values to be there for a loved one when they need you – it can be very stressful and emotionally draining. Feeling emotions such as fatigue, anger, frustration, exhaustion, loneliness, pessimistic, and sadness is natural. Caregiver stress – the mental, emotional and physical stress accompanying caregiving – is common.

And like all other kinds of stress, it can soon spiral into burnout if the stress is repressed and not dealt with holistically. Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. The stress can severely impact your own life and health and that of your loved one. Seeing the ones they love stressed increases depression and hopelessness amongst patients, and they begin to view themselves as a burden. Therefore, it is essential to start treating self-care as a caregiver, not as a luxury but as a necessity.

Common Signs of Caregiver Stress

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability.
  • Feeling tired and run down.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Overreacting to minor nuisances.
  • New or worsening health problems.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Feeling resentful.
  • Drinking, smoking, or eating more.
  • Neglecting responsibilities.
  • Cutting back on leisure activities.

Common Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

  • You have much less energy than you once had.
  • It seems like you catch every cold or bout of flu that’s going around.
  • You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break.
  • You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or don’t care anymore.
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction.
  • You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available.
  • You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you care for.  
  • You feel helpless and hopeless.

Ways to Cope

Living with and caring for a loved one can be emotionally exhausting. It is vital to take care of yourself as a caregiver during this time. Here are some tips for coping, physically and mentally with the caregiver’s distress:

1. Educate Yourself about the Disease and Practise Acceptance

It is best to gain correct information and education about the disease. It will empower you to feel more in charge of the situation. Knowledge also helps establish clear boundaries. Understanding when you can help and when you cannot is essential. Having the correct information is a great way to understand your role. Ask medical experts and doctors as many questions as you want during appointments. And consider using a reliable source of information to understand the condition better.

The hand fate has dealt you can seem very unfair, burdening you with a sense of helplessness. It is easy to get trapped in the emotional dwellings of why this happened to your loved one. However, this can only further lead to depression and stress. And leaving you in a more confused state than before. Practice acceptance of the condition. And embrace your caregiver roles as a choice to feel more empowered.

2. Take Care of Yourself and Practise Healthy Living

You need to take care of yourself before you take care of others. Keep in mind not to miss your own doctors’ appointments. Exercise and eat a nutritional diet to stay active. Your health is the key to looking after your loved ones. Don’t skip sleep; you need to recharge your batteries for the next day. Practice meditation and relaxation exercises to help you deal with stress.

Taking care of your mental and emotional help is as essential as your physical health. Don’t set unrealistic expectations from friends and family members. It is not always possible for them to know what you need or how you feel. Start a dialogue and express your emotions honestly. And don’t worry about any judgment you might think you would receive. Seek out the help of a professional if you begin to feel overburdened, stressed, or depressed. Consider joining online or offline caregiver support groups. It might help you to share your emotions with a group of people who have gone through a similar situation. Being part of a community can give you strength.

Taking care of your mental and emotional help is as essential as taking care of your physical health. Don’t expect friends and family members to always know what you need or how you’re feeling. Start a dialogue and express your needs, thoughts and emotions freely without being worried about how they will be received. Seek out the help of a professional if you begin to feel overburdened, stressed or depressed. Join online or offline support groups to share your emotions with a group of people who have gone through a similar situation – being part of a community can give you strength.

3. Ask for Help and Take a Break

You need to have a strong support system during challenging times. Family, friends, colleagues, and anyone you can rely on, should be your go-to person when things get tough. It can be difficult and awkward to ask for others’ help but realizing that you need a break can be the first step. You might become rigid about how to take care of your loved ones, thinking that you should have to do it all. But, this is an unsustainable way to approach a solution for a long-term condition. The best way to avoid burnout is to accept help. Divide the responsibility, and take a break.

You might even look for adult day care or respite care centers when you need a break. Keep in mind not to feel guilty about abandoning your loved one. You have to allow yourself to enjoy doing things that you love.

To Sum It Up:

Being a caregiver is a vital yet unrecognized and underappreciated role. One can often neglect their physical, mental, and emotional wellness as a caregiver. At the same time, they invest all their energy into caring for their sick loved ones. As flight attendants say, ensure your safety before helping others. Being healthy is the first step to taking care of your loved ones. Accepting help and building a sustainable way of life is essential. If you need an empathetic and compassionate helping hand, you can always choose to speak to one of our therapists at DocVita:!