Taking on the role of being a caregiver can be a challenging task. Everyone experiences negative feelings that come from time to time. When juggling between caregiving and other personal commitments gets too overwhelming, you may find yourself feeling increasingly drained, tearful or irritable towards your loved one. Many caregivers often feel like giving up or feel extreme levels of stress that drains them completely of their physical energy and mental capacity to cope. When these intense negative feelings of helplessness, isolation and anger become unrelenting, it could be a sign of caregiver burnout.
“I’m too tired for this, please just leave me alone.”
However, caregiver burnout can be relieved if you manage such negative feelings well. The first step is always to notice the symptoms of caregiver burnout. If you can relate to the points below, it is the right time to seek help in terms of alternative healthcare options such as respite home care services.
Feelings of guilt
Imagine this scenario when you are about to try out a dementia day care centre for your mum. It’s her first day, and you waited around to help assimilate her into the surroundings. You try your best to make her feel as comfortable as possible by bringing her favourite cushions and flowers into her bedroom and assured her while she is still adapting to the place. Then you leave the daycare centre and felt a huge sense of relief as you can finally get some quality sleep for once in peace. But you can’t shake off this unrelenting sense of guilt for leaving her in the hands of other caregivers as you take the chance to relax and do anything else but caregiving.
Many caregivers face this feeling of guilt which leads to caregiver burnout. Even when they are doing everything well, they still think they are not doing well enough. Guilt is an extremely complex feeling. It’s when we take on the expectations of our society, our culture, and our family upon ourselves, and we become our own toughest critic. It is a feeling of inadequacy, and that we are ‘never doing enough’.
How to Cope with Guilt:
Get the feeling that you are never enough out of your mind. Nobody is perfect all the time, and it is normal to feel inadequate at times. It may help to have an open and mutually respecting communication with your loved one. While understanding their needs, be honest about how you are feeling as well. Understand that you are helping your loved one as best as you can, and you are improving as a caregiver with every step of the way.
Caregiver burnout and depression is actually more common among caregivers than you would think. Caregiver depression comes when you start feeling hopeless, dejected and jaded about the situation. However, caregiver depression can be managed. Here are some symptoms you may face if you are dealing with caregiver depression:
Crying and breaking down more frequently than usual
Being perpetually tired, exhausted, and have a high inertia to do things
Weight loss due to decreased appetite. Or weight gain due to stress eating.
Lack of sleep and adequate rest
Being increasingly irritable and angry all the time
A loss of interests in people or activities that once brought you pleasure
Increase in usage of vices such as alcohol or cigarettes
Suicidal thoughts, and desire to give up
Chronic physical pain such as migraines, neck or back pain
Feelings of anxiety, anger and isolation
Loss of focus and unable to do things well and efficiently
How to Cope with Caregiver’s Depression:
Physical exercise: Exercise releases endorphins that help relieve stress and anxiety. Regular exercise will reduce symptoms of depression.
Finding support: Join a caregiver support group to expand your network. It will help with feelings of isolation when you find people who are going through the same struggles as you, and you are able to pick up tips and tricks from the experiences and testimonials of people who have walking in the shoes you have walked in. There are many caregiver support groups in Singapore like TOUCH caregiver support group, and Alzheimer’s disease association caregivers support group.
Respite time:Respite time gives you a break from your caregiving responsibilities. It can help you relieve stress to fuel you for a long road ahead. To get more time for yourself, you can engage in home healthcare services so professional nurses can provide help in the comforts of your own homes.
Feelings of anger
Anger comes when you find yourself snapping at your loved ones more frequently. You find yourself saying things like “why are you walking so slowly?”. You might also deliberately hurt your loved one by inducing guilt in them like “I have to sacrifice my career just to take care of you”.
How to Cope with Anger:
Framing your mindset: Don’t blame your care recipient for the situation that you are in. Try to separate the person from the condition. The illness, not the care recipient, is the reason for the difficulties and challenges both of you are facing.
Seek professional help: Make an appointment with a therapist, family counsellor or spiritual advisor.
Lastly, caregiver burnout and stress can be a silent health crisis. Feelings of negativity can creep on you without you suspecting it. Hence, if you do need help caregiving for your loved ones, so seek alternative healthcare options like home care services with professional nurses to provide the necessary care your loved ones need. Take the time for respite for yourself too, and fuel yourself for a longer road ahead.