Article by Tara Collyer
Outside the working world, those most prone to burnout are caregivers. Caregivers are unpaid workers who devote themselves to the care of a chronically ill or disabled person. The constant stress of caregiving can lead to burnout and damage both physical and mental help.
Fortunately, there are resources to support caregivers.
What is a Caregiver?
A caregiver is a person who devotes themselves to help another person in need. Typically, the people who require care have conditions that prevent them from performing activities of daily living.
Caregivers provide support by doing grocery shopping and cooking, paying bills, giving medicine, assisting with bathing, using the toilet, dressing and eating.
What is Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress is the emotional and physical strain that caregiving causes and it may take many forms. Caregiver stress can cause depression and anxiety, and long term medical issues. Caregivers can be more susceptible to illnesses, have slower wound healing, as well as be at a higher risk for mental decline.
Those suffering caregiver stress may feel:
- Frustrated and angry
- Guilty, because they do not feel the care they provide is good enough.
- Lonely because caregiving has impacted social life.
- Tired all the time.
- Easily irritable or angered
- Constantly worried
- Physically ill, with frequent complaints like headaches, aches, and other problems
How To Prevent or Relieve Caregiver Stress
- Don’t dismiss feelings as “just stress” as caregiver stress can cause future problems down the line.
- See if your local hospital or community health centre has classes to teach caregivers to cope with the demands of caregiving for a person with a specific illness.
- Find out about – and use – caregiving resources within your community.
- Stay in touch with family and friends.
- Join a support group for caregivers in your situation – this is a way to make friends and pick up caregiving tips and share your stories.
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition, and talk with your loved one’s medical team.
- Be open to assistive and adaptive technologies that may help your loved one regain some independence.
- Don’t be afraid to ask family members for financial help if necessary.
- Ask for – and accept – help. Keep a running list of ways others can help and when help is offered, give specific manners in which they can help (e.g. cooking some meals for freezing).
- Similarly, when people offer to help, say “YES!” Let them take care of you if you are not able to let them care for your loved one.
- Identify things that may be changed and those which cannot.
- Set realistic goals and break larger tasks down to smaller steps.
- Try to be healthy yourself – go to regular doctor appointments, eat well, and get enough sleep.
- Ask the doctor’s office if they have any ideas for community support resources.
- Remember, there are no “perfect caregivers.”
- Caregiving is a job – you’ve earned a break. Give yourself a respite.
- Be alert for signs of depression, and ask for help if you feel depressed or overwhelmed.
- Say no to any requests that may be draining.
- Listen to your gut; trust your instincts.
- Caregivers do many physical things – lifting, bathing, etc. Be kind to your back – learn proper lifting techniques, and look into assistive technologies and devices.
- It is okay to grieve the situation; you’ve lost something, too.
- Stand up for your rights as a caregiver. You are a caregiver, not a doormat or a servant.
- Connect with a greater community, and know that “we are none of us alone”.