Caregiving demands a lot of time and attention, which can be very overwhelming and lead to caregiver burnout or put them in a stressful situation. In order to maintain great health and wellbeing for caregivers, we’ve listed four pieces of advice that can help them on their journeys with caring for patients or loved ones.
Join a support group
Finding a support group can be essential to maintaining your emotional health as a caregiver. Caregiver burnout is an unfortunate, but common occurrence. It’s caused by an overwhelming amount of stress and can leave the caregiver feeling exhausted. Having a space where people can share in common experiences is incredibly valuable. These groups help cope with the emotions of a loved one’s diagnosis and any additional strain. With life-altering diagnoses, they can leave both patients and caregivers feeling powerless. Being able to release these emotions by sharing them with individuals who have also experienced similar situations can help caregivers move forward.
This can be especially important when caring for anyone with a rare disease like mesothelioma, where treatment is harder to find and the patient may need additional emotional support having a shorter prognosis of 1 to 2 years. Rare diseases in particular can often make patients and their caregivers feel more isolated since many people in their lives may not understand the condition. Support groups can help to bridge the gaps and bring people together that are dealing with similar diseases. They can even connect people with survivors of these diseases and spread some hope for recovery.
Try not to second-guess yourself
Not all caregivers are experienced; some are simply reacting to the hand dealt to them and their loved ones. Time dedicated to caregiving as well as the effectiveness of that care might be questions that confront new caregivers as they attempt to navigate this unfamiliar field. Asking questions in attempts to learn more about the practice of caregiving is important, but not to the extent that they add guilt and stress to your life. Consistently second guessing yourself can often be a distraction from actually providing care, and as a result caregivers should try to quell any self-doubt. The best way to combat this tendency is to formulate caregiving plans so that you can be prepared for new obstacles. Many organizations offer free guides and checklists that can assist in this process.
Care for yourself, too
Practicing self-care can take many different forms, either through a personal activity that you find relaxing, trying yoga or another physical activity, or just generally cutting back on your commitments. Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, focused breathing, or reflecting on the things for which you’re thankful can also be great methods of self-care. If you’re interested in exploring meditation but don’t know where to start, you can try using an app to guide you. These techniques help to relieve anxiety and stress, and can help caregivers approach the challenges of their role with calmness and clarity. Operating from this emotional standpoint allows caregivers to focus and make the best decisions for their patient. And of course it’s important to remember that caregivers also have their own lives as well. Saying no without guilt and allowing caregivers time to themselves is essential to preventing burnout.
Build a relationship with the medical staff
Attending appointments and interacting with doctors and nurses can often be part of the caregiving package. Building a relationship and showing respect to all of the medical staff you encounter can be beneficial later on when you’re asking questions or need help. These relationships can directly impact your level of understanding about the treatment options available to your loved one.
It can also be helpful from a purely interpersonal standpoint to bond with the people that you may end up spending a lot of time with, depending on the needs of your patient. Even if it’s just chatting in the waiting room, developing a connection with the people around you can help caregivers cope with stress. Medical staff encounter challenges like the ones facing patients and caregivers on a daily basis. They can be a great resource and source of emotional support as well.
Caregiving is no small task, which is why it’s important to take care of yourself! Hopefully these tips will help to further support the great work being done by our loved ones.
Updated: December 6, 2016