With an aging population in Singapore, there is an estimated 210,000 over caregivers and this number is increasing with time. Often, the role of a caregiver is thrust upon them unexpectedly when their loved one’s health suddenly deteriorates. As a result, some may not be prepared for the emotional and physical demands of the role, which eventually depletes their energy and leads to mental anguish.
Caregivers face a multitude of stress on a daily basis:
Feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty, especially when they’re unsure how to care for their loved ones
Loss of their own social life and sudden changes to their routine can lead to emotional strain
High caregiving costs (and the shock when the patient deteriorates overnight) adds on to their financial burden
Tough physical demands of caregiving, especially as the caregiver grows older, will also tire them out.
As the day passes and the pressure of caregiving gets greater, caregivers may start to feel fatigued, burned out, and in some cases, it may even lead to depression and anxiety.
Fatigue occurs when caregivers neglect their own physical, emotional and spiritual health. They burnout when they are so exhausted, physically, mentally, and/or emotionally, that their attitude to their loved ones shifts from caring to unconcerned. When we reach that point, even the simplest task feels tough.
In this article, we discuss some ways to prevent caregiver burnout and how society can support caregivers.
Get Emotional Support
Increasingly, many caregivers are starting to realise that their journey shouldn’t a lonely one. With improved communication technology, they learn to rely on their inner circles of friends and family for a listening ear. Having the support and acknowledgment of their contributions have a positive impact on their emotional and mental health.
Donna Thomson, an experienced caregiver and author of The Four Walls of My Freedom, advises new caregivers to identify one friend or key ally who will promise to make personal support a priority. So it is true that caregivers can and should find people they trust to confide in.
Image Source: Health Hub
There are also many support groups available for caregivers in Singapore. There, you will find people with similar experiences with whom you can share your problems and frustrations in a safe space. You will also be able to learn tips from other caregivers which may be a great help.
As part of the new Caregiver Support Action Plan announced in 2019, some community outreach teams currently engaging those at risk of mental health illnesses will expand to provide greater focus on caregivers. SGEnable will also develop an online portal to act as a 24/7 information hub pointing caregivers to social support available for their loved ones and themselves.
Get Professional Caregiving Help
Shouldering on without any time-off or assistance will lead to caregiver burnout. Carol Bradley Bursack, veteran caregiver and author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories says: “no one can provide care 24/7 long-term alone without breaking down so somehow you must find a way.”
Image Souce: NTUC Health
Caregivers can consider respite care, a form of day care for the patient meant for temporary relief from caregiving duties. There are multiple respite options available to suit various needs, with 12 eldercare centres and over 40 nursing homes providing the service. Putting a loved one in the hands of well-trained staff and professionals is definitely a good peace of mind for caregivers, as compared to the intricacies when it comes to asking for favours from friends and family.
The government has also ramped up efforts to support caregivers. The Home Caregiving Grant (HCG) announced in 2019 will help to relieve some of the financial burdens on caregivers. It can be used to cover part of their caregiving expenses, such as the costs for respite care which can go up to$3500 a month, a sum that was too high for many before.
Take a Guilt-free Break
Caregivers often struggle with guilt when taking some time for themselves, despite these breaks being well-deserved and much-needed. Without giving themselves many opportunities to de-stress and recharge, caregivers will eventually run out of energy and burnout.
Whether it’s caregiving or life in general, it is important to take the time to catch-up with friends and family, to maintain your social circle, and not feel isolated. Humans are communal creatures, and these relationships are crucial to supporting and keeping any human positive in a long and tiring journey. It also greatly reduces the chances of depression and anxiety. So if you have a friend who’s giving care to a family member, remember to help them take breaks!
Image Source: Unsplash/Maddi Bazzocco
If you’re a caregiver yourself, Just. Take. That. Break. Pamper yourself. Celebrate your small achievements and do not dwell on those not so perfect times. Use your breaks for self-care, go for a massage, or simply take a long bath. These small treats go a long way in recharging yourself and boosting your spirits, getting you ready for the next challenge.
Caregiving is a tough and daunting task and we should do all we can to assist these noble caregivers. Help this filial daughter with her caregiving duties by gifting her a microwave oven now! Do head over to our platform to view other requests too!
Top Photo credits: The Care Issue