Being a caregiver is about a lot more than simply being supportive and empathetic.
Perhaps you are a caregiver yourself, either by choice or by circumstance. Maybe you’re considering being one, or are looking for a way to best support a PWD you know in your own way.
Regardless, the biggest consideration for a caregiver is arguably their own wellbeing first and foremost, not those they want to care for.
This may seem counterintuitive or even hypocritical. Yet a caregiver can only truly provide their best support when they themselves see to their own care.
Understanding the concerns you will face as a caregiver will provide you the clarity needed to tackle them head on.
Here are some crucial factors all caregivers should keep in mind:
Caregiving can take its toll
Supporting a PWD regularly can be very taxing on the mind and body. Some caregivers fall into burnout. Many others build up stress and anxiety.
Trying to balance caregiving responsibilities with every other aspect of your daily life can be a test of patience and resolve.
Some caregivers might feel guilt over their wavering patience. Don’t. This is natural, understandable.
Instead, do not shy away from taking breaks when required. You don’t need to abruptly drop your responsibilities for an extended period to achieve this.
Taking breaks could simply be in 5 minute intervals. You could watch a funny video, take a quick exercise, or call a friend.
Regardless of the nature of your breaks, the key here is to pace yourself, to mentally and physically reset whenever time allows.
Specialized knowledge can be crucial
While professionals would naturally have the training and education, many caregivers are friends or family of a PWD, without the proper knowledge.
It would be unrealistic to expect all potential caregivers to be certified professionals. Even so, you may need to pick up new skills in order to effectively care for a PWD.
This can be anything from knowing how to assist with mobility devices, to managing a PWD’s medication, or even learning how to communicate without aggravating stress.
Whatever the unique circumstance you find yourself in, be sure to consult professionals if able, or at least seek out information through the correct channels.
Knowledge is power, and without that power you may unknowingly do more harm than good.
Be brave to seek support
Just as how you might care for a PWD, allow others to care for you too.
This could take the form of support groups both physical and online, licensed therapy, or simply keeping in contact with friends. After all, taking regular short breaks can only be so effective on its own.
Remember, you are not alone. Even if you do not have access to people you know, there are hotlines and services you can rely on. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
Mayo Clinic Staff (2022) Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself [Accessed 20 March 2023] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784
UCSF Health (2001) Self-Care for Caregivers [Accessed 25 March 2023] Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/self-care-for-caregivers
Family Caregiver Alliance (2023) Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers [Accessed 29 March 2023] Available at: https://www.caregiver.org/resource/taking-care-you-self-care-family-caregivers/