||Caring for the Caregiver
What is a caregiver, and what challenges do they face?
Caregivers are those who care for a mentally ill family member
or friend. This kind of care can come in many forms, from living
with the person to simply being an open ear and a support for their
Those who care about
a family member or friend with mental illness often find themselves
frustrated, overwhelmed – even
angry. These are all signs of burnout. Other signs of being overwrought
with stress from dealing with a mentally ill loved one include
physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Without taking measure
to care for themselves, caregivers may end up themselves having
to cope with stress, anxiety and depression.
Guilt is also a common problem
for caregivers – the guilt
that comes from using their energy to take care of themselves.
The irony is that caretakers must take care of themselves or
they will not be able to be a support system to their mentally
ill loved one.
What are the symptoms of caregiver burnout?
- Withdrawal from friends, family,
and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom
you are caring
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
|How can a caregiver prevent burnout?
- Find someone you trust -- such as a friend,
co-worker, or neighbor -- to talk to about your feelings and
- Set realistic goals, accept that you may need help
and turn to others for help with some tasks.
- Be realistic about your loved one's disease,
especially if it is a progressive disease such
- Don't forget about yourself because you're too busy caring
for someone else. Set aside time for yourself, even if it's just
an hour or two. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury.
It is an absolute necessity for caregivers.
- Talk to a professional. Most therapists, social workers, and
clergy members are trained to counsel individuals dealing with
range of physical and emotional issues.
- Take advantage of respite care services. Respite care provides
a temporary break for caregivers. This can range from a few hours
of in-home care to a short stay in a nursing home or assisted
- Know your limits and do a "reality-check" of your
personal situation. Recognize and accept your potential for caregiver
- Educate yourself. The more you know about the illness, the
more effective you will be in caring for the person with the
- Develop new tools for coping. Remember to lighten up and accentuate
the positive. Use humor to help deal with everyday stresses.
- Stay healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercise
- Accept your feelings. Having negative feelings -- such
as frustration or anger -- about your responsibilities
person for whom
you are caring is normal. It does not mean you are a
bad person or a bad caregiver.
- Join a caregiver support group. Sharing your feelings
and experiences with others in the same situation can
you manage stress,
locate helpful resources, and reduce feelings of frustration