The Importance of Maintaining Mental Health as a Caregiver
By: Adrianna Fusco
In society, it is expected of you to take care of your loved ones when they get sick. If you choose not to, you’re seen as cold, heartless, and ungrateful. However, should loved ones really take care of their sick relatives when there are professionals who are experts? In this article, we are going to look into how taking care of sick family members can have adverse effects on the caretakers and how to avoid burnout.
What does Caregiving Entail?
Taking care of sick people can involve many important tasks, like making sure they are
eating, practicing good hygiene, and more. These aren’t just little tasks, these are things that are needed for survival and good health. Therefore, there is a lot of pressure on these caregivers to make sure that they are giving their sick family member or patient the best care possible. This can lead to the caregiver suppressing their own needs to meet the needs of others. Once the caregiver starts ignoring their own needs, they become susceptible to mental health issues and health issues which not only puts themselves in danger, but also may affect how they take care of their patient.
What is burnout?
Burnout is the medical term used to describe when a person is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Signs of burnout are less energy, low immunity, feeling exhausted, and poor self care. Along with burnout, there is caregiver stress which is anxiety and stress due to taking care of someone else. The symptoms of caregiver stress are anxiety, depression, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, extreme reactions, new or worsening health conditions, outlets such as drinking or smoking, neglecting responsibilities, and issues concentrating. Untreated caregiver stress can build up and lead to burnout or other mental issues.
How to Deal with Caregiver Stress and Burnout:
When dealing with stress and burnout, it’s important to be able to cope. There are different ways to go about treating burnout, but one of the solid ways is therapy. Talking to someone about your issues and having someone to help you talk through your problems is a good way to deal with the emotional
responses that come with dealing with a sick loved one. Therapy is an extremely good option when taking care of someone who is not getting better and is projected to only get worse.
Another form of treatment is thinking positively about the situation and finding someone to support you. When caregiving, it’s important to highlight why you are helping and to find the positive things you are getting out of caregiving. As mentioned, caregiving can be hard when the person seems to not be getting
better, but looking for positives such as how your loved one would react if they were healthy, can help you get through it. It is also important to make sure you take time for yourself. To do that, you can accept help when it’s offered and reach out if you need help.
The most important way to make sure you are coping is taking care of yourself first. Make sure that you are keeping on top of doctors appointments to make sure you are in good health. Being healthy can help you be able to deal with the strain of caregiving and makes it easier to focus on the person who is sick. On top of this, make sure that you are eating properly and getting enough sleep, as a lack of either of these can lead to decrease in mood, energy, and productivity. Before you worry about anything else, you need to make sure that you are okay.
Caregiving is hard no matter what the situation is. With Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving is especially hard if you are the caregiver for your loved one. Alzheimer’s disease is vicious and causes people to forget main parts of their life. In many cases, people with Alzheimer’s forget their loved ones by the end and forget how to complete basic tasks. This makes it very hard for loved ones to take care of them because it is painful to see your loved one forget who you are and lose the skills they need to survive. It’s hard to see them struggle and be unable to take away their pain. That’s why it is so imperative to make sure you are taking care of your own mental health. Joining a support group, going to therapy, or even talking to friends can help you deal with the loss of your loved one. Dealing with your mental health not only benefits you, but also benefits your loved one. As when you are healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally you can be the best caregiver possible and put all your energy into helping your loved one.
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