When given the role of a caregiver, life takes a sharp turn, and all of a sudden, your life becomes that of another. The allowance of time given to adapt is, at best, meagre; much less the time you have to wrap up the unfinished chapter of your life, leading to caregiver stress.
When one falls ill and their condition does not go back to their original state of health, a caregiver is needed in their life. This responsibility usually falls onto family members. In Singapore, majority of the caregivers are the patient’s daughter or son. If the medical condition of their loved one improves with time, the caregiver is able to recover from the stress after they have tide through the tough time. However, when this stress is prolonged it becomes chronic. Chronic stress is the most likely cause of caregiver burnout.
Chronic stress is the most likely cause of caregiver burnout.
Caregiver stress comes in various forms. At times, it is overwhelming, and sometimes, it creeps up on a person.
The most imminent impact of caregiver stress is usually because of knowledge gap, when a caregiver is unsure of how to care for their loved one. This is when their loved one’s health condition has changed drastically. Their feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty cause stress. This is particularly prevalent in caregiving for stroke patients when an array of skills have to be speedily acquired by the caregiver, who is simultaneously working and caring for their children. Skills such as feeding, bathing and helping their loved one move have to be learnt in the short amount of time that they are in the hospital. When discharged, they might find themselves as a loss.
The most prominent impact is a lack of resources. Caregivers require time and energy to care for their loved ones properly. However, when they are at work, they are not able to care for their loved one’s daily needs at home. If they stay at home, they are not able to provide for the family financially. Time and energy to be available for their loved ones when they need it, time and energy to go to work. It is overwhelming to juggle workplace and caregiving responsibilities when we only have 24 hours into a day.
It is overwhelming to juggle workplace and caregiving responsibilities when we only have 24 hours into a day.
Other than the physical needs, a caregiver also tends to the emotional needs of their loved one. This chronic emotional labour can cause emotional strain which eventually leads to burnout. The loved one’s mood and behaviour affects the caregiver on top of their normal everyday challenges. If it was a loved one with cancer, each test and appointment with the doctor is an emotional rollercoaster that can really take a toll on a person.
“I’d get so frustrated — how to handle him when he started screaming?” – Mr Richard Ashworth, in an interview with Talking Point
How do you know you are burning out? You know that you are burning out when there are exhibited signs and symptoms. There are physical signs like getting sick often, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss and changes in sleep pattern. There are also emotional signs like when you perpetually feel hopeless, irritable, and ever have thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or your loved ones.
Signs of burnout? … Getting sick often, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss and changes in sleep pattern
When faced with this situation, recognise that you need help! It is commonly seen that people seek help late when all these stress could have been avoided if only they had sought help earlier. Don’t let the situation escalate and consequences be dire. Get help for your loved one and yourself so that you can spend better quality time with your loved one and not strain the relationship.