Family Med-eZine TeamTuesday, 15 Apr 2014, 07:27 pm

Most caregivers for adults with chronic ailments (cancer, mental illness, post-surgery, and other life-threatening conditions) are generally family members. A family member best understands the situation of a patient, his or her condition and requirements on a daily basis, so they are the best choice to help provide meaningful care to their ailing family member.

Caregiving, though rewarding and fulfilling, can be extremely challenging and an overwhelming experience. A caregiver may have to face a host of new responsibilities, which can be physically demanding and emotionally draining at the best of times. In-fact, a caregiver may become so involved looking after the family member that they may end up ignoring themselves.

Caregiver Stress

Stress and burnout occur when you try to do more than what you are physically or mentally capable of doing, and this takes a toll on your health. You may begin neglecting your own health needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore. Caregiving can be taxing and if you are over-worked, you begin cutting back on leisure activities, even if additional help is present. Along with the physical changes, there can also be changes in mental attitude with time— from being positive, caring and devoted to being negative, bitter and unconcerned.

All this can make you anxious, depressed and irritable at times. You may no longer feel satisfied with what you are doing or motivated to continue doing so. All this can hamper your ability to provide good care for your sick family member.It is important that while providing care, you do not forget to take care of yourself and your needs (be it physical, emotional or social) as this can have a negative effect on the recovery of your ward.

Making Caregiving Easy

You can do many things to stay away from burnout and make life easier: 

  • Learn as much as you can about the illness your ward is fighting. This will ease your anxiety and help you be more effective in providing care. 
  • Solitary caregiving can become stressful, it is best to involve other people (friends, relatives), who may help you with certain tasks. 
  • Set “realistic” goals, be aware of your limits and accept the fact that you can become prone to stress and burnout if you cross them.  
  • Be realistic on the amount of time you can devote and let others involved be aware of the same. 
  • Encourage and help your ailing family member to become as independent as possible.  

It is important that you take adequate steps to stabilise your life and increase your competency and performance as a caregiver. This will go a long way in helping you provide meaningful care and helping your ailing ward in their journey to recovery.

Steps You Can Take:

  • Maintaining a life outside caregiving—pursue your hobbies, read books, meet up with friends. It is important to maintain a balance between caregiving and your own personal life. 
  • Realise that it is okay to take breaks in between, visit relatives, pamper yourself, watch a movie, go for a spa etc. Spend time doing activities you enjoy and do not feel guilty about it. 
  • Follow simple de-stressing techniques like relaxation, meditation, yoga, deep breathing and light physical exercises. 
  • It is important to visit the doctor for your own physical check-ups and stay away from health problems. 
  • Learn to appreciate yourself for the good work you are doing.