Caring for your loved one can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. Even the strongest of people can be subject to caregiver stress. It is extremely important for the caregiver to take care of themselves, and take care of their mental and physical well-being. In innumerable cases, we can see that care is provided by relatives or close friends – not professional caregivers. They are not trained in caregiving, which is why they end up stressing themselves unreasonably. In all this, it would do well to remember the instructions flight attendants give when they perform the safety demonstrations: that one must wear their own oxygen mask first, and then help others, even if it is their child.

A caregiver can be any person who helps a disabled, aged, or sick person to go through the day, helping them with their meals, hygiene, self-care, medications, etc. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise that they are caregivers – they simply consider that they are doing what is necessary for a loved one, and do not prioritise their own wellbeing.

Caregiver self-care is essential; without that, you can feel burnt out. Yes, it feels satisfactory and rewarding to be able to care for someone who needs it – but it should not be at the cost of your own health and well-being.

Being there for a loved one when they need it, can be its own reward. However, it can be very difficult, and you may be called on multiple times during the day – and even at night. It can cause anger, frustration, exhaustion, sadness, and even loneliness. Caregiving can be emotionally and physically stressful, and also isolate you from others in your life. If the illness or disability is extreme, caregivers can end up having little time for themselves – and end up losing their own health.

Remember: a caregiver’s mental health is not only as important as the patient’s health; it is even more important. You cannot help another if you are unwell.

Caregiver stress syndrome is often characterised by:

  • Depression, anxiety, and worrying constantly
  • Frequent feelings of exhaustion
  • Prone to quick anger and irritation
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Fluctuating weight
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to like
  • Frequent and severe body aches and headaches
  • Substance abuse – alcohol, painkillers, tobacco or narcotics 
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Abnormal eating habits

The following factors are more likely to give rise to caregiver stress symptoms:

  • Being female
  • Spending several hours a day providing care
  • Living in the same house as the person who needs care
  • Having had to become a caregiver due to a lack of other alternatives
  • Inability to solve difficult problems
  • Lack of skills to cope with difficult situations
  • Feeling isolated socially

Managing Caregiver Stress

Excessive stress for prolonged periods can be very harmful to health, and cause depression and anxiety.  Not being able to sleep and eat well can cause a range of chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.

Tips for caregivers:

Caring for a sick, disabled, or senior person puts a lot of pressure and demand on the person providing it. However, you shouldn’t feel despair; there are several tools and resources available that talk about how to relieve caregiver stress. You should take advantage of them and take care of your own needs properly.

Here is what you need to remember:

It’s ok to take help

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to prepare a list of the things you would like help with; allow your helper to choose what they would prefer. Let’s suppose – one of your friends may offer to prepare meals a few times a week; a sibling or cousin may offer to watch them while you spend some me time; yet another may be willing to take them for an outing so that you can unwind; some family members may be ready to do your grocery shopping, or run other errands for you.

Understand your limitations

There is no perfect caregiver; nobody is a superhero. We are all human beings with our own needs and limitations. We may not be able to do everything the patient needs at all times. However, it is important that you, more than anyone else, understand that you are doing the best you can, and that is enough. You often have to take difficult decisions in minimal time, and you are doing your best.

Define goals that are achievable

You need to be realistic about what you can and cannot do; for instance, if you are looking after someone who has been in an accident, you cannot set a goal like I will make sure he walks independently next week. Depending on the patient’s condition and the doctor’s advice, set smaller, realistic goals that can be achieved in a short time; in short, you can break down the bigger goals into smaller steps. Stay away from tasks that will be exhausting.

Look to the community

There are several resources available for caregiving in your community. For example, there may be numerous centres where they hold classes about caring for autistic or spastic children – you just have to search and find them. Services like food delivery, house cleaning, and transportation may also be available, and you should not hesitate to use them.

Join a support group

If you don’t find a support group in your town or city, you can definitely find them online. On social media platforms and independent forums, you have groups that are even categorized according to the illness or disability of the patients they care for. These are very helpful as there could be people who have been through the same kind of problems, and can give you advice on dealing with specific situations. They are also safe places to vent and get some moral support.  You can even forge friendships with some of them.

Stay connected

Caregiver depression is very real; human beings can get depressed when isolated from others. Just because you are caring for a sick person does not mean you have to cut yourself off from friends and family. Stay connected over video calls, chat, and even occasional visits.

Take care of your health 

As part of self-care for caregivers, they must set goals for their own health. This includes healthy eating, a good sleep routine, adequate physical activity every week, and proper hydration. Sleep is especially important. Sleep deprivation can lead to a host of medical problems. It’s a good idea to consult with your regular doctor once a month or fortnight. Make sure that you are up to date with your screenings and vaccinations; this is a good opportunity to discuss any concerns you have about the person you are caring for.

Take a Break

If the illness or health problem is prolonged, it might be necessary to leave your loved one in the care of a professional or a friend or family member for a few days. You need to take a break so that you can relax and recharge your batteries, and be ready to take over with renewed vigour. The following types of help are usually available:

  • In-home care that is provided by agencies where healthcare workers come home to provide nursing care, companionship, or both
  • Care centres which take care of the elderly or younger people who are unwell for a short period when the regular caregiver is away
  • If you care for someone and also go to your office to do your job, think about taking a long leave from your job so that you have the time to devote to the patient, and don’t get stressed from overworking yourself

Final Thoughts

You are not alone in this world; there are many people and resources out there who can help share the burden of providing full-time care. All you need to do is remember these things:

  • Taking care of yourself is extremely important
  • There is no shame in asking for help.

Make sure the help you get is professional, and the people are well trained. At Lana Lifecare, our caregivers are not only well-trained and skilled at their jobs, they are empathetic and attentive, and their patients are their priority. We provide home nursing and physiotherapy services, and assistance with diagnostic testing.

Reach out to us if you have someone at home who needs round the clock assistance or supervision. You can be at ease, and go to work while our caregivers attend to your loved one. You can lead a fulfilling life with work, friends, and colleagues, an spend time with your loved one when you come home – it will help keep you stress free.

Get expert home care for your loved ones – Call Lana Life Care now!