When caring for a loved one, one of the positive effects is the feeling of satisfaction you have, to which we can add the increase in the level of empathy, but inevitably, the effort will cause you fatigue and sometimes frustration. Whether we are talking about caring for an elderly person or a person with disabilities, your mental and physical consumption is considerable.
In such a situation, you will find yourself in the position of taking care of two people simultaneously. It is both about the direct beneficiary of your services and about yourself. Although not everyone who takes on such a task finds themselves in the role of caregiver, it is important to know from the beginning the risks you are exposed to.
In the following, we offer a guide that we hope will help you catch some general aspects in caring for a loved one, the main symptoms and causes of stress and exhaustion, as well as some ways in which the latter can be prevented.
What does caring for a loved one mean?
When we are children, it is the mothers who take care of us. But once we reach the threshold of maturity, the roles change: yesterday’s mothers end up being cared for by today’s mothers. Are you familiar with this paradigm shift? Surely! Thus, we notice how throughout life, we can all be at least once in a position to take care of loved ones – grandparents, parents, relatives.
When it comes to the health of our loved ones, their good comes first and we forget about sleep, food, or our peace. Although we would think that these moments are our moments of superheroes, we begin to realize how, over time, in the absence of proper education and daily rigor, these powers fade immediately, leaving us more tired with each passing day.
The tasks of a caregiver differ depending on the health status of the beneficiary, his needs, and the degree of closeness to that person.
We will list below the possible duties that may arise in your duties when you take on the role of caregiver:
– help with personal hygiene (washing, going to the toilet, etc.);
– clothing support;
– assistance in daily activities (shopping, walking, recommended physical exercises, etc.);
– help with cooking or feeding;
– supervising the loved one and making the right decisions, if they suffer from a mental disorder;
– emotional support;
– help with transport or travel in or out of one’s home;
– keeping the house clean, etc.
What are the symptoms of stress and exhaustion?
Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, the author of the book Flow – Psychology of Happiness, introduced a new concept in the field of psychology: the state of flow. This state “describes the global psychological experience that we usually live when we are completely absorbed in an activity that demands the most of our abilities, which involves us to such an extent that we often lose track of time.”
Starting from this definition of the concept, we can easily realize that caregivers often face this problem. When you dedicate your body and soul to your loved one, trying to prioritize the duties towards the other, to the detriment of your own health, you expose yourself to the risk of fatigue, stress, and, over time, exhaustion.
General symptoms of stress include:
-Constant feelings of fatigue and/or worry;
-Weight gain or loss;
-Increased irritability and sadness;
-Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed;
-Frequent migraines, body aches, or other physical problems
What causes stress and exhaustion when caring for a loved one?
Working with sick people can be difficult, but when the caregiver is close to the person in question, the care activity can involve problematic issues, due to the presence of emotional impact. Caring for a person is not an easy process, which is why, when you decide to take it on your shoulders, it can become a source of stress when:
- Feel the lack of help from others (family members, friends, acquaintances) and inability to cope with constant demands
Whether we are talking about easy tasks, such as accompanying a loved one on walks, it is important to know that even such activities can become tiring if they are done for a long time.
The difficulty can arise when you neglect your own person. By wanting to dedicate your body and soul to the caring person, you may not be able to complete your daily tasks, which can be a source of frustration if all these activities come together, coupled with the feeling that you are failing to get things done. good end in both directions.
- The person you care for is part of the family, and losing it would cause you heartache.
We would all like eternal life for our loved ones. The thought that a person who has had a positive impact on their own life could disappear, causes immense suffering. Therefore, if a loved one is in poor health, the first impulse would be to give up your own life in favor of the family member.
- You lack practical experience in the field
Although many people believe that caring for a person can be intuitive, and in the profession of caregiver requires certain knowledge, which each person with such a role, including when he finds himself in the situation of helping a loved one from family, can also acquire them by taking courses, in addition to the actual experience. In this sense, there is a wide range of courses in the field, which can vary in duration. Among the most accessed are the following: first aid course, nursing course, specialized courses on certain mental disorders (dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.).
- You feel that your role is misunderstood
In a large family, most often, those who live closer to the loved one are designated, indirectly, the guardians of that person. Thus, role confusion sets in. This comes when you want to get involved in caring for your loved one, but you don’t want to be left alone.
What can you do to prevent stress and exhaustion?
Prevention is less expensive than intervention. According to studies on stress, it occurs in a proportion of 40-70% among home caregivers and is correlated with anxiety and depression. Chronic stress can also lead to long-term medical problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and a compromised immune system.
In addition to stress, exhaustion is also an important factor to consider. We can distinguish between three types of exhaustion: mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. All are the result of over-activity of the brain, causing a feeling of overwhelm or frustration. In order to be able to work efficiently, for a long period of time, minimizing stress and exhaustion, specialists recommend performing the following daily activities:
- Accept the help of others
As in any activity, help between “colleagues” is essential. When caring for a loved one, make sure from the outset that the tasks will be shared among several people so that the effort is evenly distributed. This way, you can avoid overburdening only certain family members.
- Focus on what you are able to offer
Each of us is good in a certain area of activity. Some of us like cleanliness, others like socializing with loved ones. However, what is important is that you are aware of your qualities and preferences and focus on them in order to have pleasant experiences throughout this process, both for you and the beneficiary of your actions.
- Create a support group
Identify a few people, friends, or relatives, who are willing to listen to you and give you a good thought, advice, a suggestion when you feel that too many tasks are gathering that you do not know how to cope with. Talking to someone about the difficult situations you are going through can help you to unload and, in this way, to balance yourself emotionally in order to continue to face the subsequent challenges.
- Get enough sleep, eat healthily, and don’t forget about exercise
Your health is important for both you and the elderly. Therefore, proper rest and a healthy lifestyle, with a focus on proper nutrition, but also on sports, as far as the situation allows. , are essential for the proper functioning of your body.
- Recurrent visit the family doctor
Due to the chaotic work schedule and emotional and physical exhaustion, it is recommended that once every few months, you make a routine consultation with your family doctor.
Regardless of our role as children, grandchildren, or relatives, there is a great possibility that over time we will come into contact with older people who need our help. When we have a direct connection with the person in question, especially if they suffer from a certain type of disorder, whether it is Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, or dementia, the care activity may seem more difficult. Therefore, for the health of you and those around you, we recommend that you try to maintain a balance between your personal life and your care for your loved one. A healthy daily routine, support from others, or taking courses in care can be of real use to you so that the time you spend with him is a real experience in the evolution of both.