In India, caregiving is usually provided by non-healthcare professionals. A caregiver is any person who provides care and assistance to an ill person, disabled child or ageing relative. However, family members who care for elders don't identify themselves as caregivers. We need to recognize this role and give them the support they need.
As rewarding as caregiving is, it also has a demerit leading to uncertainty in mood and emotions. The caregiver often faces physical and mental stress which lead to an impact on their own health.
It typically manifests in a person who neglects self because their entire focus is on the ill.
A few facts around the syndrome:
- It impacts the mood of the caregiver, along with the long term health and wellness.
- A person who is helping a person of cognitive decline suffers more from depression and mental health problems.
Effects on physical health include:
- A decline in physical health.
- A higher level of stress hormone and lower level of antibody.
- People with conditions like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes etc.
- Physical assistance leads to physical stress.
- Increased risk of having heart ailments in women who spend more than 9 hours a week taking care of their spouses.
- Bad eating habits.
- Caregivers of 66+ age have a higher mortality rate in comparison to non-caregivers of the same age.
Symptoms of the syndrome:
- Change in Appetite, weight or both.
- Often feeling blue, irritable or helpless.
- Withdrawing themselves from friends & family.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Reduced immunity.
- A feeling of hurting yourself or the person you are caregiving.
- Loss of interest in activities you use to enjoy earlier.
- Physical & emotional exhaustion.
How to deal with this Syndrome?
Once you recognise that you are having signs of Caregiver syndrome, then the next step is to manage it. The best way is always to make your own health a priority to continue providing proper care to your loved one.
If you have the above-mentioned symptoms, take a break.
- Contact local agencies, family or friends to help. You could reach out to professionals or organizations who provide healthcare at home.
- While you unload yourself from the stress, do something that you enjoy or simply rest and recharge.
- Try unloading yourself from the services that are readily available by outsourcing. Lower your other workload. Hire someone to do household chores for you.
- If you are working somewhere, talk to your employer. There are several programs that a company can help you with under the family and medical leave act.
- Focus on taking care of yourself, seek help from medical professionals when in need.
- Make sure you are eating well, sleeping well and are regularly exercising.
- This role emotionally drains a person. In that case, you should contact a therapist or talk to a family member or friend.
This stress is real, but there are always many ways to overcome it, be happy and at peace while looking after your loved ones.
Always find time for yourself and your own needs. Keeping yourself content is the key to avoid caregiver stress.