As your elderly family members age, their physical, mental and emotional states gradually change. You may take on the role as a caregiver when they require support due to a disability, illness or special needs.
Caregiving can put an enormous strain on your personal life, especially if you are caring for a family member with dementia, stroke or Parkinson’s disease. Families can also face significant stress when their loved ones suddenly become hospitalized and they need to quickly acquire the skills and knowledge to care for their loved ones when they are discharged from the hospital.
Caregivers can face financial, physical, mental or emotional stress due to the following reasons:
- High cost of medication, supplements and elderly equipment such as wheelchair, adults diapers, bathroom handles etc.
- Caregiving may require physical assistance such as transferring and showering. This can be very exhausting and tedious for caregivers who are also old and frail.
- Having to spend time and resources to take care of your loved ones in addition to other work responsibilities and family commitments. You may also feel constantly worried and overwhelmed when providing care for your family members.
Some signs of caregiver stress and burnout include:
- Excessive worrying
- Lacking energy and interest in the things you previously enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping
- Uncontrollable mood swings that may lead to depression
- Changes in eating habits including loss of appetite
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, irritable and impatient especially with the person being taken care of
- Getting sick often, particularly headaches and stomachaches
- Low self-confidence and social withdrawal
- Becoming dependent on medication to cope up with daily activities
- Neglecting own physical and emotional needs
While taking care of your loved ones, it is important to take care of your own health and wellbeing first, so you can better care for others in the long run. Here are some tips to manage caregiver stress and prevent a burnout before it happens.
1) Seek and accept help: Understand that you are not alone in this caregiving journey and always seek assistance and support from other family members, voluntary welfare organisations and government agencies.
Join a caregiver support group to receive encouragement and emotional support throughout your caregiving journey. Such support groups also provide an opportunity for you to meet other caregivers in similar situations who can share caregivering experiences and practical tips that would be useful to you.
Click here for more information on hospital and community support groups in Singapore.
Source: Singapore National Stroke Association Caregiver Support Group
2) Set realistic expectations and goals: Do what you can and celebrate small victories by pampering yourself. Prioritise what needs to be done and say no to requests that are draining and beyond your control.
3) Maintain your personal relationships and health: Stay in touch with your family and friends who can offer you emotional support and advice. Lead a healthy lifestyle and try to get quality sleep. Visit a doctor if you are feeling unwell or have trouble sleeping.
4) Have regular breaks: Give yourself a break and do not feel guilty about it. Sometimes a short break can rejuvenate you and prevent you from suffering a burnout. Many nursing homes or support groups provide short or long-term respite care. You can also get additional support by using the Carer app to hire a qualified local nurse or care aide to provide home care for your elderly family member.
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