Defining The Role Of Houston Caregivers & The Challenges They Face
The role of a caregiver is to provide someone suffering from a chronic disease with basic support. And this support system involves different aspects, like the emotional effort that goes into caregiving. As for a person with a chronic disease, it means the illness is long-term. In many cases, the disease can be terminal and last indefinitely. Some example of chronic illness include:
- Special needs children, such as those with cerebral palsy
- The side-effects of having a stroke
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or some other form of dementia
When looking at the duties of the caregiver, a lot will depend on the situation. For instance, it could be expected from the caregiver to handle the shopping responsibilities. At the same time, they have to be able to administer necessary medication and cook healthy meals. Even the cleaning and bathing duties can fall to the caregiver if the chronically-ill person needs it. Ultimately, emotional support needs to be there as well.
In certain cases, the caregivers are professional and get paid for their services. However, there are times when friends and family members take on the responsibility without any type of compensation. And as rewarding as caregiving can be, it can be just as tough.
The Challenges Of Caring For A Loved One
If you find yourself caring for someone who is closed to you, be prepared to face some tough times. The severity of the illness and the fact that you are basically on-call for most of the day requires great dedication. It basically means you spend a great deal of your life supporting someone else, which gets harder as time goes on.
In addition to the time and effort caregiving will require on your part, there are realities you need to make peace with. More specifically, you are going to see the person in your care change drastically. As the illness takes its toll, it will influence the person in many different ways. Here are some examples of the possible changes:
- It can happen that the person is losing his or memory, and in turn, systematically forget who you are
- They may become too ill to respond or do basic things they used to be able to do
- Some illnesses like dementia can cause erratic behavior, such as violent outbursts and emotional breakdowns
Over time, it can get very difficult to recognize the person you used to know very well. And this challenge alone can be too tough for certain caregivers.
Is It Normal To Experience Negative Feelings As A Caregiver?
The truth is that you can expect to go through several different emotional cycles as a caregiver, especially if you have a personal connection to the person you are caring for. For instance, there are times when you’ll feel proud and rewarded. And fairly quickly afterward, you might feel depressed, lonely, or even unappreciated. Everything about having these feelings is normal because you are a human, not a robot.
Is There Any Risk To Your Health As A Caregiver?
Unfortunately, there are several risks involved when you take on the responsibility of a caregiver. One of them will no doubt be the emotional challenges mentioned just now, such as the stress and fatigue that are bound to make things harder. In other words, you can easily forget about taking care of your own health.
But it’s not just the mental part of caregiving that is challenging. Physical tasks can also get tougher, along with the financial responsibilities you still have to maintain throughout. Otherwise, who is going to pay rent and buy food? In fact, you can reach a point where going to the doctor for a personal checkup is either too expensive or time-consuming.
According to research and studies, these are some of the common health risks caregivers expose themselves to:
- Turning to substance or alcohol abuse to help you cope
- Developing anxiety disorders
- Increasing the risk of developing cancer
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Heart disease
- Higher blood pressure and cholesterol due to increased stress
- Heartburn as well as increased chances of infection
- Losing control over your appetite
- Unexplainable headaches, muscle, and joint pain
- More consistent bouts of depression and a lack of energy
How To Tell Whether Caregiving Is Taking Its Toll?
There is nothing strange about feeling conflicted on a regular basis. And as mentioned earlier, going through these cycles is normal under the circumstances. Keeping in mind that it’s not a job that gets easier, it’s no surprise that studies show caregivers are more at risk from health problems than non-caregivers. But you are the only one that can decide whether you are strong enough to stay in your position as a caregiver.
Advice For Taking Better Care Of Yourself
Just because you are the caregiver, it doesn’t mean you are allowed to neglect yourself. And to help you take better control of the situation, here are some suggestions for keeping yourself healthy as a caregiver.
Pay Attention To Your Health
The little things like staying active and eating well can help a lot in terms of keeping you strong and positive. For instance, just 30 minutes of good exercise three or four times a week can break those bouts of depression quicker than you think. And the boost in energy will do wonders for your mindset. At the same time, rest when you get the chance. Without proper sleep, you are eventually going to break down, no matter what you do. But more importantly, don’t get hooked on bad habits to help you cope with the stress.
Get Those Regular Checkups
Make a note of it to visit the doctor on a regular basis. Because if you are missing something, he or she can pick it up and inform you that something needs to change. Let your doctor run a few tests and make sure you are in good health before you attempt to maintain the health of someone else. Seeing as you can’t be a caregiver if you are the one that requires immediate care.
Learn About The Chronic Illness
The best way to approach a challenge or problem is to understand it. Now, even though there isn’t a cure for dementia or cancer, several elements are understood. And the more you know about the illness, the better you will be prepared to deal with what is coming. Yes, it will still be rough, but knowledge is power, especially in cases like this.
Stick To A Schedule
It’s important to stick to a schedule or routine as a caregiver. And without beating around the bush, there are many things to keep in mind as a caregiver. Following a routine is going to help in several different ways. For example, in addition to helping you cope better, it gives you the opportunity to schedule some personal time.
Make Time To Decompress
The world is not your responsibility, and you can’t be a caregiver 24/7. So, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to always be on standby. Instead, make some time to decompress and have fun.
Talk To A Professional Or Loved One
Sometimes, a good talk with someone can do a world of good. It doesn’t really matter who you talk with, as long as you get it out in the open. For instance, you can reach out to a medical professional or even a friend or family member.
Join Community Support Groups
You are not the only caregiver in your area. And you are definitely not alone with your emotional struggles. This is why it’s recommended to look for community support groups. These are people that understand your situation better than anyone.
When To Take Serious Action
Due to all the stress that caregiving brings with it, here are some signs that tell you to drastic action:
- Constantly feeling powerless and overwhelmed, or even helpless
- You are irritated and angry the whole time
- You are aggressive towards the person you should be caring for
- You notice physical discomforts and problems, like heartburn, headaches, etc.)
- You’re not getting enough sleep
- You avoid being social
- You become dependent on alcohol or other substances
How Do You Know You Are Falling Into Depression?
- Your eating habits change, causing excessive weight gain or loss
- You feel like crying all the time
- You have no more positive thoughts of feelings left
- Nothing you do seems to calm you down
- You feel guilty or worthless
- You lose the interest to do anything
- You suffer from memory problems
- You think suicidal thoughts
The good news is that you can address these issues, and you can start right now. Make that call to your doctor or friend, then look at ways to help you find your way back to health.
Some Questions For Your Family Doctor
- Is it possible to prevent stress from becoming too much?
- What is the best way to implement breaks with caregiving?
- How do I know I’m trying too hard and doing too much?
- Will I see the physical symptoms from all the stress?
- Can a support group be effective and where can you get one?
- Will prescription medicine help in coping as a caregiver?