November each year is National Family Caregivers Month. Our Asian cultures honour filial piety and family bonds, which results in two things: the expectation that family will take on the bulk of care for disabled or infirm family members, and a reluctance for ‘outsiders’ to take on this care.
If unprepared, family caregivers can be prone to caregiver burnout, which puts both caregivers and care recipients at a disadvantage.
What caregiver burnout is
Caregiver burnout describes physical, mental and/or emotional exhaustion. It is the result of a caregiver trying to do more than they are capable of, physically or financially.
Caregiver burnout can be caused by
- role confusion, for example being unable to separate being a caregiver and being the care recipient’s sibling, child or relative
- unrealistic expectations on the positive effect of the caregiver’s work
- Lack of control caused by a lack of money, resources or skills to manage their loved one’s care.
- Unreasonable demands placed upon yourself as the only provider of care
Symptoms or signs of burnout can include
- loss of interest in life and hobbies
- feeling sad, hopeless or irritable
- changes in appetite or weight
- change in sleep patterns
- constant tiredness
- more frequent illness
- neglecting responsibilities
- neglecting your own needs
It is important for caregivers to remember that they are not alone. They are allowed to ask for help, even before (and especially before) things become critical.
Some support structures available within Malaysia include:
Hospis Malaysia’s Carer’s Guide Book (available in 3 languages)
It is also good to meet with fellow caregivers when you can. You can connect with others who are facing similar issues or problems, lean on each other for empathy and support, and learn how to deal with issues from those who have experienced them already.
Being a good family member and being a good caregiver are both important responsibilities. However, it is important not to take on the whole burden of caregiving by yourself. Seek support, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and take care of your own health — not just for the care recipient’s benefit, but also your own.
1StopMedicInfo (2019) Support Groups [Accessed: 13 Nov 2019] Available at: http://188.8.131.52/support_groups/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search=support&category=
Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation Malaysia (2018) National Dementia Caregivers Support Network [Accessed: 13 Nov 2019] Available at: https://adfm.org.my/national-dementia-caregivers-support-network/
Melinda S., M.A. (2019) Caregiver Stress and Burnout [Accessed: 13 Nov 2019] Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm
WebMD (2018) Recognizing Caregiver Burnout [Accessed: 13 Nov 2019] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/caregiver-recognizing-burnout
Yayasan Ipoh (formerly Yayasan Sultan Idris Shah) (2018) Support Groups [Accessed: 13 Nov 2019] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20181011231717/http://ysis.org.my/support-groups/