Family caregivers take on a difficult role, working hard to give their loved one the opportunity to live as independently as possible and maintain the highest possible quality of life.
For a caregiver, the priority may be the person in their care. However, in order to be an effective caregiver, it’s also important to look after yourself. Caring for an ageing or ill loved one requires a significant amount of physical, mental, and emotional strength. It can often be overwhelming for the caregiver and, in severe cases, the pressure of caregiving can lead to stress and caregiver burnout.
Anything that requires an adjustment to a change in circumstance or environment can cause stress. When we become stressed, our bodies react with physical, mental and emotional responses. If feelings of stress persist for a long time, the immune system can be affected, which can result in illness. Caregiver burnout can occur when caregivers take on too much and do not get the help that they need. A caregiver with burnout may feel tired, stress, anxious or depressed.
The best way to avoid stress and caregiver burnout, and to look after yourself as a carer is to implement planning and problem-solving strategies.
Tips for Effective Planning
Being organised helps to reduce stress, which, in turn, increases your ability to provide care to your loved one. The following are some of the things that you can do to help you plan more effectively:
- Talk to other family members and friends about whether they are willing and able to help with caregiving tasks. Many people will be more than happy to help out, so talk to them to find out what tasks they are happy to do and when they are available to provide support.
- Find out what formal assistance is available to you. There will be organisations in your area that provide formal caregiving services as well as support for family caregivers. While you may want to provide all the care on your own, it may not be realistic or achievable to do so. Make use of these organisations that can help.
- Take full advantage of any help that you have available, for example, from other family members, friends and formal organisations. Once you know who is ready and willing to help, you can work to create a weekly schedule of tasks and assign them to each individual to ensure your loved one’s needs are met every day.
- Plan each day in advance, listing the tasks that you want to achieve that day and what you think you can accomplish realistically. Then, assign priorities to each task and make sure you are doing the most important things first.
- Make sure you’re not taking on too much yourself. If you end up working to the point of exhaustion, you’re not only risking your own health, but you won’t be able to properly look after the person in your care.
Tips for Effective Problem-Solving
Solving problems is a key part of caregiving. The problems that come along with caregiving, such as dealing with your loved one’s illness and declining abilities may be new to you. If you have never experienced these problems before, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. The following are some tips for problem-solving for caregivers:
- Consider the problems that currently exist and look for the resources that are available to you to solve them. Think about solutions to these problems and take steps to implement the ones that you can and plan for the ones that cannot be immediately implemented.
- Develop a long-term plan for your loved one in the event that their condition worsens. Consider the potential problems that are likely to arise in future and how you may tackle them if/when they arise. This puts you in the best position to act and make changes when it becomes necessary.
- Keep a note of important contact details such as doctors, support workers and emergency services. Ensure these can be easily located in the event of an emergency.
As new problems occur, follow these steps to best deal with them:
- Identify the problem and understand the implications of the problem
- Consider potential solutions
- Evaluate all of the potential solutions and consider which is likely to be most effective
- Try out the chosen solution
- Evaluate the results
- If the problem is still not solved, try one of the other options
For more information on the support available for carers, see the following page from the Better Health Channel: Looking after yourself as a carer. If you want to find out more about the content of this blog, and how our courses or workshops may be able to help you as a carer, don’t hesitate to get in touch.