importance of self-care for caregivers hissah ec abu dhabi

The challenges of caregiving

A caregiver is someone who gives basic care to a person who has a chronic medical condition. The caregiver helps the person with many tasks. These include shopping, preparing and eating food, cleaning, taking medicine, bathing, and dressing. Caregivers also provide companionship and emotional support. Caregiving can be incredibly taxing – both emotionally and physically – which is why it is crucial that the caregiver understands the importance self-care first.

Regardless of age, sex, and race and ethnicity, caregivers report problems attending to their own health and well-being while managing caregiving responsibilities. They report:

• Sleep deprivation
• Poor eating habits
• Failure to exercise
• Failure to stay in bed when ill
• Postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves

Family caregivers are also at increased risk for depression and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. On the one hand, caring for your family member demonstrates love and commitment and can be a very rewarding personal experience. On the other hand, exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources, and continuous care demands are enormously stressful. Caregivers are more likely to have a chronic illness than are non-caregivers, namely high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a tendency to be overweight. Studies show that an estimated 46 percent to 59 percent of caregivers are clinically depressed (Shultz & Scott, 1999).

Caring for yourself

We are all aware of air travel guidelines. The first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. It’s a lesson for life! Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and also one of the most ignored—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, both physically and mentally, the person you care for will benefit, too.

There is no doubt that caring for a loved one who is ill is one of the hardest things to do. Oftentimes, you are “on duty” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It becomes very difficult to balance the different areas of your life – work, family life, social commitments, and other chores. By the time you have managed to get everything done, there is zero time left for yourself.

There are some things you can do if you are feeling too overwhelmed or stressed and to lead you onto a path of improved overall personal well-being while you take care of someone:

1. Talk to your family doctor. There is nobody who better understands what it is like to take care of someone unwell. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about how you’re feeling. Tell your doctor about all of your symptoms/worries/concerns/and stresses. He or she can recommend coping methods, support groups, counseling, or medicine to help you feel better.

2. Don’t isolate yourself. Keep your friends and family circle close. You may feel that you shouldn’t burden people with your feelings because you’re not the one who is sick. But talking about the illness and how you feel with a friend or close family member can help relieve stress.

3. Take care of your health. Studies show that caregivers are more likely to suffer from a number of health problems. Make sure to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, fit in some exercise into your daily routine, and avoid tobacco, alcohol, and too much caffeine. Getting rest and enough sleep may be difficult, but try to get an adequate amount of sleep to keep your energy levels up and your mind clear.

4. Stay organized. This includes staying organized with your space, your time, your routine, your commitments and more. Caregiving is often a full-time job. More likely than not, you may be doing it on top of other responsibilities such as a job or taking care of your children. Make a schedule and try to stick to it as best you can. Make sure to coordinate this schedule with your family, this will help all of you stay organized and will help you manage the demands on your time. Don’t forget to slot in time for things you enjoy such as dinner with friends, going out for a movie, or a trip to the spa, so that you can have a bit of a mental break!

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Spread the word in your community. Community services provide different kinds of help. These include meal delivery, transportation, and legal or financial counseling. They also include home health care services such as physical therapy, nursing, and other temporary care options for you to avail if you need to take a break.

As challenging as caregiving may be – it can be just as rewarding as well. Knowing that you are a source of ease, support, and care for someone you love is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. Always keep in mind that you are not alone and that there are many avenues for you to reach out and get help when you feel the need for it.

 

References:

Shultz, Richard and Beach, Scott (1999). Caregiving as a Risk for Mortality: The Caregiver Health Effects Study. JAMA, December 15, 1999, vol. 282, No. 23.