Wave - ONLINE EDITION

Caring for the caregiver

Tips on how to avoid stress while taking care of a family member or loved one

  • Print

As the number of older adults increases, many of us will at some point become a caregiver to a parent or other family member who is aging or recovering from a temporary or long-term condition.  

While there are formal health services that address medical needs, very often family members are called upon to become what is referred to as informal caregivers.

Informal or unpaid caregivers fulfill a vital role in providing a variety of supports to loved ones, and their contribution is critically important in maintaining a meaningful quality of life for their family member.

But while the caregiving role is meaningful, it can also become very stressful. As a result, it is important for caregivers to find ways to care for their own well-being.

One of the first things to understand about the role of caregiver is that caregiving is an emotional experience. Being a caregiver can affect a person's life in a number of ways, both positively and negatively.  

There is satisfaction in knowing that a loved one is being cared for in a certain way, and caregivers gain a sense of satisfaction in knowing that these needs are being met. But caregivers may also feel increased demands on personal time, which can leave caregivers feeling overwhelmed and isolated.

Guilt is a common feeling experienced by caregivers. People may feel that their care is inadequate or that they are not doing enough for their loved one. Feelings of anger and frustration are also common as caregivers grapple with losses and changes in their life and the life of the person they are caring for each day.

If a caregiver is not able to take a break and care for their own wellbeing, these difficult feelings can lead to burnout or depression. The following steps can assist caregivers in meeting the needs of their loved one while maintaining their own well-being.

Get information: It is important to learn about the condition of the person you are caring for so you can better understand what your loved one is experiencing. This, in turn, will help you to know what to expect and how to deal with it.

Information sources could include health-care professionals, self-help and family member organizations or books and magazines.

Aids and supports

Ensure you are properly equipped to care for your loved one or family member. Comfort items and independent living aids such as bathtub bars, walkers, etc. can help ease the burden on caregivers by making things a bit easier for them and possibly preventing injuries as well.

Reach out

It is very important to reach out to others for assistance, even though this can be a difficult thing to do. Recognize that you need not do it all on your own. There are different types of resources, some provided in the home such as home care services or supportive services to family members offered by community organizations such as the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities or CancerCare Manitoba.

While every organization will offer specific services and supports, some of the types of help that could be offered include information, social and emotional support, transportation, or companionship. Call agencies or visit their websites to find out more. Friends and other extended family often would like to help but aren't sure how. Don't be afraid to ask them for help with a specific task that could lighten your load. Practical assistance such as a hot meal, a shovelled walkway, an outing to the mall or a supportive phone call are simple things that could really make a difference.

Take care of yourself

Caregivers need to find the time to take care of their own health by getting adequate sleep, eating well and finding ways to de-stress. Plan ahead and schedule regular periods of time that would allow you to take some time for yourself. People often underestimate the benefit of even 30 minutes of pleasurable activities in your day such as listening to music, going for a walk, reading or enjoying a hobby. Respite from caregiving can be in the form of time set aside for your own needs and it could also mean finding someone else who can be the caregiver for a short while when you take a break. Respite is a key factor in preventing burnout.

Getting practical help is important, but so is emotional and social support for the caregiver. Many organizations offer family and support groups that allow people to share their experiences, support one another and help caregivers to feel less isolated. Your caregiving is invaluable; give yourself permission to take care of yourself in the process as well.

Laurie McPherson is a Mental Health Promotion Co-ordinator in the Winnipeg Health Region.

***

Top tips for caregivers:

http://www.wrha.mb.ca/wave/2013/01/top-tips-for-caregivers.php

 

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Tree remover has special connection to Grandma Elm

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should political leaders be highly visible on the frontlines of flood fights and other natural disasters?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google