Taking on the role of caregiver is daunting, especially with the reality of death and loss. A caregiver may be a professional who provides home care. They may also be a family member who takes care of an ill loved one (informal caregiver) outside of a hospice setting.
A caregiver’s work varies substantially in scope, intensity, and duration. Caregivers are considered “secondary patients.” Informal caregivers need guidance on how to competently look after their loved ones.
The pressure and constant demands of this profession leave them vulnerable and at risk. It results in an array of health consequences. Caregivers often pay little attention to their health, as their every day is consumed by thoughts of the patient’s health care.
There may also be a deterioration of their well-being. The mortality rate for this profession is also considerably high. Caregiver stress may lead to unhealthy behaviors and habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol and drugs. Unhealthy behaviors and inattention to their health set their overall well-being at risk.
Although challenging, caregivers also report a general feeling of satisfaction and reward for their efforts. Caring for a loved one in their time of need allows your relationship to grow. The more you take of yourself, the more you can give back to those you love.
If you are a caregiver, find time to acknowledge these emotions that you are going through.
1. Fatigue and Isolation
Having someone entirely dependent on you may make you feel like you have to accomplish everything by yourself. The incessant demands of caregiving will leave you exhausted, and it is difficult to make time for yourself and concentrate on self-care. Understand that your essential role as a caregiver means that you should take care of your well- being.
Learn to delegate and ask for help from family members. Ask them to accomplish some tasks for you. If it is difficult for you to ask for help, you may start by asking for help at least once from a close friend or family member.
Your local hospice may provide valuable support and aid during these times. Hospice professionals may give you insight on how to manage your time and the care you give. Consult about the possibility of a home care aide and other community resources that may be useful.
2. Fear and Anxiety
As a caregiver, you face the constant weight of uncertainty and the unknown. You fear the prospect of how you can possibly handle death and loss, and you fear life without your loved one.
Many informal caregivers lack the necessary skills and knowledge which is required for providing care. It may feel daunting to perform tasks such as giving injections, suppositories, and giving medication. You may fear that you are unprepared for this task of caring for your loved one.
Find reliable information from an expert hospice nurse or your doctor. There is evidence that providing family caregivers with the necessary skills and coping training improves well-being and quality of life. In cases of an emergency, make sure that you have a hospice available on call to answer any questions you have on care.
Accept that the difficult situation you are in and that you do not need to go through it alone. Even with a support system, care is still very demanding and complicated. Look into hospices that provide expert home health care services. When in-home care is not possible, look for a nursing home or an assisted living facility that will provide your loved one with the special care they need and deserve.
Even for anticipated deaths, grief will be difficult and tiring. Although you cannot know for sure what will happen once a loved one dies, experienced professionals may help you understand what to expect in the time of death and grief. Think about how you will manage the few weeks of grief after your loss, though it would be best to delay any major and long-term decisions.
Learn to accept that anger is part of the human experience. It is a natural response to a traumatic event. You may feel angry about a situation that is out of your control. You may even try projecting this to more accessible targets like the patient, your doctors, or your family. You may even feel guilty for having these thoughts. If you are feeling this, it only means that you are nearing your limits, physically and mentally. It is time to learn to find and accept help.
Accept that you are angry. Learn to express all the thoughts and emotions that are going through your head. But you should find a safe way to express your anger. Try hitting a pillow or yelling loudly.
It may be difficult to acknowledge and verbalize your feelings of guilt. If it is difficult for you to share this with someone else, writing a list may help. Try not to invalidate your feelings of guilt and learn to forgive yourself.
4. The Burden of Comfort
As the primary health giver, your family and friends would often look to you for strength and support. In the face of grief and all the emotions you are experiencing, it is hard to put on a brave face, especially when you feel that things are spinning out of your control.
As difficult as it may seem, acknowledge both positive and negative feelings of caregiving. Gently express your feelings to your family. Denying your emotions is unhealthy for your mental well-being and your relationship with others. Learn how to express your feelings openly in an appropriate manner.
5. Making Difficult Decisions
Some family caregivers are given the responsibility of making decisions for loved ones who are incapable of doing so. This is extremely stressful for the family caregiver. Arguments are common. Try to foster an environment of open communication.
Seek help and advice from a professional. The family caregiver requires training, knowledge, and judgment to competently care for their patients. Providing caregivers with management training and allowing them to feel prepared will improve their overall well-being.