Physical exhaustion in the day, barely an ounce of sleep at night, all the while constantly grappling with the stress of tending to another person’s daily needs while putting yours aside. That is the unending challenge of the family carer, of which there are over two and a half million in the country in 2015 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Caregiving in general is not for the faint of heart, given what it requires of a person physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In fact, even professional caregivers – who have trained and acquired experience in the field – can very easily fall into a pit of complete exhaustion, displaying symptoms of severe stress and even depression in what is called “caregiver burnout”.
For a family carer, having to care for a loved one is even more emotionally taxing; and in most cases, the task of caregiving is thrust upon the carer whether they like it or not.
So how does one avoid the many pitfalls of caregiving and overcome its many challenges?
Look at caregiving from a different perspective
There are some people out there who see caregiving as not that much different than raising a small child, if not for the fact that the “child” in this case is older than the caregiver instead.
To us this is a very negative perspective, and shifting away from this will give you some idea of what to do next. For our purposes, we can think of caregiving as “helping” – and as we go along, we will see that caregiving is, in fact, all about help.
Help yourself before you help others
Caregiving in many cases is all about the recipient of the care. However, many caregivers tend to focus so much on their patients that they end up failing to care for themselves in the process. It is this forgetting of self-care that leads to caregiver burnout for so many caregivers, professional or not.
To keep stress from mounting on you day after day, it is very important for you to find some free time where you can focus on yourself and use that time as much as you can.
Figure out your loved one’s daily routine, and you’ll be sure to find at least a couple hours where you will not be constantly attending to their needs. Whatever you find will be time that you can spend on whatever will help you relax, rewind, and recuperate.
Have a support group
There is no reason for you to take on the many challenges of caregiving on your own, even if you think you have it under control. As with anything else that creates a lot of stress, it is always a good idea to have and maintain a strong support group – a circle of friends and/or family that are only a text or call away.
Having a support group around will really help you overcome the stresses of caregiving and serve as a helping hand in the event of an emergency.
Prepare for emergencies
Most caregiving work is really just about maintenance – keeping your patient in the best condition they can be. However, even professional caregivers aren’t doctors or emergency medical technicians.
That said, it always pays to be prepared for any emergency that might happen. Take the time to procure a first aid kit if you haven’t already, and always have a short list of emergency medical hotlines on hand. if you want to be and feel more prepared, you might want to learn emergency first aid procedures such as CPR and the Heimlich manoeuvre.
Get help as soon as you need it
As we’ve mentioned, caregiving is all about help. Not only giving help, but also receiving it. If you are having trouble in your caregiving at any point and are not sure what to do, don’t be afraid to contact your patient’s doctor or emergency services and get the advice you need as soon as possible.
Like it or not, caregiving is hard – very hard. And we, of all people, should know; after all, we have been in the elderly care business for over 20 years. But by following these simple tips, you will be able to give your loved ones all of the care they deserve without any of the stress.