Care for Caregivers

Have you ever had an ailing family member in your vicinity day in and day out? What would be the first thing you’d do when they’d need help? Surely you’d rush to them and do the needful, possibly help feed them, clean them or just simply have a chat with them.

Care givers and what they do:

The same kind of tasks are done with as much care and love, by caregivers who are trained in the intricacies of care giving for patients suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses.  They literally become the beacons of service-mindedness in their endeavour to deliver their “job”. Their lives revolve around administering medication, booking consultations with doctors and other specialists like dieticians, psychologists, etc. and in some cases, even feeding, bathing and cleaning their patients. They shift focus from themselves to their patient, with a smile. So lost are they in their mission of catering to the needs of the patient they are entrusted with that they often end up not taking care of themselves. Wouldn’t you think such a person who is a personification of patience & care giving should also take care of herself/himself? In fact, caregivers should first take good care of themselves as one cannot take care of another individual unless (s)he is healthy.

Personal Care is Important:

We are always told to eat on time and sleep on time, take our medicines, if need be, on time, regularly exercise, meditate to keep our minds calm and fill our minds with positive thoughts. The simple reason behind this is good health. Imagine the problems that care givers will have to face in case they do not regularly take care of themselves. They might feel exhausted during their work hours, feel weak or fall sick. This is why it is reiterated that they pay as much attention to themselves while they are in charge of another person’s well being.

Effects of Care Giving on the Health & Well-being of the Caregiver:

Unfortunately, many a time the caregivers tend to get adversely affected by their nature of work.  Caregivers handle different types of patients with illnesses of different magnitudes and sometimes for many years. It is bound to have some effect on their well being if they are not constantly aware of their emotions and behaviour. Some repercussions are:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Extreme emotions
  • Failure to eat or sleep well
  • Postponing their own health care
  • Stress & anxiety

When we start to wonder about why this happens, we begin to realize that these things sometimes happen without their knowledge. What might be the support available to them?

Support Available to Care Givers:

Many Palliative Care centres extend succour to such caregivers so as to help them cope with their issues.

  1. Psychological support – Consultations with psychiatrists and psychologists are made available to them to address their personal problems.
  2. Peer Support Groups – Such groups tend to work in relieving stress and strengthening not only the bond between all these people from the same background but, even in personal strengthening. You might know that when you offer advice to another person, you feel you are in a better position than him/her.
  3. Caregiver Helpline – Many palliative care centres have a helpline for the caregivers in case of emergencies. This way they can reach out for help when they do not know where else to go.
  4. General Training in Palliative Care – Such vocational courses equip students (prospective caregivers) with the skills and knowledge of what they will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis. They are coached on how they should take care of themselves both physically and mentally. Handholding them through this process by giving them an insight into what they can anticipate, generally makes these trainings holistic and helpful in the long run.