By White Swan Foundation
Most often, we become caregivers to our loved ones because of circumstances that knock on our doors unannounced. We may be least prepared to play the role of a caregiver when it is thrust upon us. To be a caregiver to a person with a mental health issue calls for a tremendous amount of physical and mental strength. If the problem is severe, the caregiver may need to be fully involved in the care of the person.
Even as you get completely engrossed in the process of caregiving, you may consider pausing periodically to see if you are missing anything. Here are some of the tips professionals ask caregivers to follow:
Know your limits
We all have our limitations – physical and emotional – and we must know those limits. Trying to push ourselves beyond our limitations could lead to burnout. It important that you, as a caregiver, acknowledge your limitations and accept them.
This is easier said than done. However, this is perhaps the most important aspect. Experts point out that getting involved in the process of caregiving can be less stressful if you enjoy it. Of course, caregiving brings several challenges. Doing the same set of jobs as a caregiver everyday for years can provide one with hardly any room for enjoyment. The challenge is to find joy in those tasks. There are several ways you could do it. Finding newer ways to do the same things, or doing things for yourself in your free time, are just a few possibilities.
Keeping yourself informed can provide you with the self-confidence to manage those numerous challenges of a caregiver. Make sure you are appropriately informed about the health issues of the loved one you are caring for. Approach the experts to learn how to balance your caregiving and daily routine. Look for opportunities to learn new skills. Arm yourself with the latest knowledge and information. Rekindle your desire to be on top of the world.
Reach out for help
Sometimes, you may feel that caregiving is only your responsibility and that you should not bother others. Particularly in the case of caring for a person with mental health problems, the resulting social exclusion only reinforces the belief that you have to fight this battle alone. However, many a time, caregivers are surprised by the support they receive from unexpected quarters. Such support and help will be available only when you attempt to reach out and seek help.
Share the efforts
Caregiving has several aspects to it. The kind of caregiving and its extent will depend on multiple factors. Expecting a single person to manage all these aspects of caregiving in an efficient manner is not fair to you as the caregiver. As far as possible, try to share the efforts with your family and friends. Sharing responsibilities brings down the stress on the primary caregiver, who bears the maximum impact. More importantly, it allows for better caring of the person suffering from the mental health problem. Sharing of efforts, however small the tasks might look, gives a sense to the patient and his/her caregiver that the world is with them.
Take care of yourself
The life of caregivers is highly stressful - emotionally and physically. As a caregiver, we make immense compromises with our own life and priorities to provide selfless services to our loved ones. The not-so-supportive social environment that exists around us compounds the challenges we face. Most often, we forget that there is a strong need to take care of ourselves. As caregivers, we must frequently pause in our busy schedules to ensure that our physical and mental health is not compromised upon. Getting frequent health checkups done, and finding ways to relax the body and mind always helps. After all, only a healthy caregiver can provide good quality of service to the patient.
As caregivers, we will have several anecdotes, views, opinions and experiences that we would like to speak about. Sharing our thoughts considerably reduces the stress that they cause. Expressing them can be therapeutic. It helps to find people, groups or other platforms where you can express yourself in order to reduce the stress of caregiving. Proactively, look out for such opportunities and get connected. They can help you build new friends who will relate to your experiences, appreciate your thoughts and offer you emotional support.
This article has been republished with permission from the Caregiving section of the White Swan Foundation's website.