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Caregiver Stress: Taking care of Yourself While Caring for Someone Else

When we hear the word caregiver or carer, our minds automatically think about the people who care for other people's health and welfare. A carer has two classifications: informal and formal carer. An informal carer can be an immediate family member, relative, friend or neighbour that provides care to someone without being paid. The formal caregivers are those that are paid to look after your loved one. A certified nurse care assistant or a registered nurse are examples of a formal caregiver.

In most cases, the primary carers tend to the person closely related to them like their mum, dad, or their own children. The caregivers are most likely to be females with a peak age ranging from 45-64 years old. Without a doubt and hesitation, carers assume the role of being the main caregiver for their loved ones who are in the last stages of their lives or those that are predisposed to certain medical conditions.

While caregiving is rewarding, it can also bring stress in a carer's life. The person they're looking after may suffer from dementia, which often leads to memory loss and the inability to properly take care of one's self. This particular situation can wreak havoc on a carer's emotional, psychological and physical standpoint. They might require assistance in their daily tasks like cooking, bathing, dressing and using the toilet. Sometimes they might need round-the-clock supervision that includes medicine administration.

What can trigger carer or caregiver stress?

Little or no rest time. Carers often don't get enough R and R time. Most of them have other jobs outside their home. They spend their time doing their professional job and switch to their caregiving role once they stepped out of the office. Even their time for sleep is interrupted due to the needs of the elderly or disabled person. Respite care is one way to minimise carer stress, however, it can be expensive or the nearest respite location is far from where they are situated.

Multifunctional carer. Informal carers aren't just solely a caregiver, they are also homemakers. They almost always have to juggle their time and attention between their loved one, spouse, children and friends.

Reversed roles. Sometimes it's quite difficult to be in a situation where there's a child-parent role reversal dynamic. Adult children aren't always comfortable to make decisions for their parents and find it difficult to draw the line between the safety and well-being of an ageing parent against the parent's right to make decisions for themselves. It might even be tougher for the parent to accept the fact that they now need help even in the slightest task.

Volatile behaviours. Seeing your loved one waste away and act nothing like they used to can bring enough carer stress. It is hard to accept that your once gentle and sweet mum is now demanding, harsh and doesn't recognise you anymore. People who are growing old, recuperating from sickness, recovering from accidents might have a different personality than they once did.

Carers often forget to look after themselves - they just let their situation continue without addressing their own needs. Carer stress can bring about anything from general feelings of unhappiness to depression. Being in a state of depressive stance breaks the spirit and make the carers unable to fulfil their responsibilities. This, in turn, causes anxiety. Carers might worry about their ability to adequately care for their loved ones.

But sometimes, it is okay to not be okay.

As a carer, we need to make sure that we have a good state of mind and we are physically fit for us to be able to take good care of our loved ones.

Get help and enlist all available resources. It is never wrong to ask for help so there is no need to feel guilty about it. Start off by gathering your family members, relatives and friends. If at all possible, come up with a shifting schedule on who is available to look after your loved one.

Home health care is another option. Ask your local community for any free programme or discounted home care services that will give you ample time to catch a breather for yourself. Taking all available resources into the table also means checking out your loved one's available finances or insurance, if there is any.

Use relaxation methods. Make use of your free time by indulging in a relaxing massage, catching up with some of your friends, go on a date with your husband and spending time with your kids. Sometimes, spending a quiet time outside your home, just sitting on a bench in the quay or park can help you unwind and take a breather.

Nourish yourself with a healthy diet. You need this to regain your strength and facilitate cell repair and growth.

Exercise. It might seem counter-intuitive for carers to go to their local gym and exercise. However, this is another ideal way to release your stress. Exercising also releases your happy hormones called endorphins which help in making you feel better.

Get enough sleep as often as possible. When your loved one is taking a nap, you should also consider napping at the same time. Whenever you have a reliever, snuggle up on your bed 30 minutes before you actually go to sleep. This method helps you relax your mind and pave the way for quality sleep. Make sure that your room is conducive to sleeping and avoid tinkering with your electronic gadgets.

These are just some of the most convenient way to care for yourself while you take care of someone else. Learning to alleviate the stress will help you maintain your vitality, attitude and endurance necessary in the role of a caregiver.



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