Caring for a loved one and feeling guilty about taking a vacation, going for a good massage or meeting friends for a meal? You’re not the only one. Caregivers often struggle with such feelings of guilt which can deplete energy and may lead to mental anguish.
Some caregivers may not be prepared for the demands of caregiving as the role may have been thrust upon them unexpectedly. Caregivers face a variety of stress; the changes to their routine, loss of freedom, physical demands of providing care, emotional strain and financial concerns could leave many stressed and exhausted. Caregivers also often express the sentiment that they are not providing support and care that is good enough for their loved one.
“You cannot enjoy others until you enjoy yourself because you cannot give to others what you do not have.” — John C. Maxwell
Providing care for another person is a noble task and it is about enjoying the time with one another. Many strained relationships between the person needing care and the caregiver occur as a result of a caregiver burning out from the anxiety and tension that built up over time. What started out as a labour of love may end up as a taxing responsibility that see hurtful words and actions affecting once treasured bonds.
Most of us are probably aware that self-care and time for self is important, so that we may be replenished, refreshed and refocused on providing support in the longer run. However, as the health of our loved ones deteriorate and the tasks become more demanding and strenuous, our rational self takes a back seat and the ability to reason diminishes. Starting out right, with realistic expectations and boundaries is key to finishing the race well. TOUCH Caregivers Support shares some tips on how caregivers can take on their role without placing too much stress and guilt on themselves. Just remember to be HAP-py!
Hold realistic goals
Caregivers are not superheroes; we should not be expecting perfect outcomes for our loved ones. We need to be realistic about the situation and the limits of our care. This includes recognising that we too have needs and that it is perfectly fine to devote time for self-care. Good care does not mean spending every minute with the person needing care or being confined to the home 24/7. The objectives and approaches to care should be reviewed regularly and realistically, a task that can only be done when one is not stressed or anxious.
Ask for help
Caregiving need not be a lonely journey. Family members and close friends often provide valuable support and advice. There are also support groups for caregivers that provide peer support and guidance. It makes a difference talking to people who understand your ups and downs and offer practical advice or a listening ear. Caregiving helplines or online caregiving support platforms can be useful especially when you are unable to step out of your home.
Take regular breaks from caregiving tasks and make a conscious effort not to feel guilty about this. There’s nothing wrong with carving out personal time for yourself. Meet up with close friends, take long walks, attend a fitness class, read a book or watch a movie. If you're feeling overwhelmed, get help from professional carers or service providers who will hear you out or provide suggestions. It doesn't matter what you do to take care of yourself, it only matters that you do so. These efforts will keep you going as a caregiver. It gives you enough energy for other loved ones, such as your spouse or children.
Understand that you will be a more effective caregiver when you care for the caregiver first. Reframing those guilty feelings may help you see caregiving in a different light in your caregiving journey. Try it – and feel the difference!
Caregivers may call the TOUCH Care Line at 6804 6555 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, for enquiries on elderly or caregiver-related issues.
TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) was set up to help caregivers for older people cope with the challenges of caregiving. TCG also works closely with TOUCH Home Care’s (THC) trans-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and care coordinators to offer a suite of home-based care and support services. TCG’s Care Line operates from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (excluding Public Holidays and eve of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year). Caregivers can also receive customised home-based caregiver training by therapists and nurses. TCG also provides a one-stop service for home modifications to create a safer home environment for the elderly and their caregivers. Partnering THC, TCG is actively exploring efficient and sustainable care approaches through its Community Enablement Project to better meet the current and future needs of Singapore’s rapidly ageing population. A Caregivers Support Group (Singapore) was also set up on Facebook to build a safe online environment to provide peer support and information exchange. Caregivers can log onto www.touch.org.sg/caregivers for caregiver-related support and services.