The American Psychological Association defines a caregiver as a person who attends to the needs of and provides support to someone else who is not entirely independent by themselves, such as an infant or an ill adult (Caregiver, n.d.). In times like these, where the world is ridden with a deadly virus, caregivers in the forms of family members and health care workers have taken centre stage. In these dire times, caregivers are not limited to age groups or their roles in family and society. Teenagers are taking care of their parents, cases where grandparents are taking care of their kids. With COVID-19, the perception of a caregiver has seen a shift wherein people are willing to provide and need the assistance of everyone around.
The unpredictability and the uncertainty of the pandemic and the associated lockdowns can take a toll on any human, let alone a caregiver in charge of someone with Covid who requires assistance. The virus and its following medication need people to isolate and help one another from a distance. As a caregiver, there is nothing more than one can do apart from helping the person from afar. Nothing prepares one for the stressful challenge of taking care of a loved one from a distance.
Stress from being a caregiver is a serious concern. It can have effects on one’s mental, physical, and overall wellbeing. Stress is the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stimuli that can induce stress (Stress, n.d.). In moderation, stress can help one grow and rise to challenges. However, extreme stress over some time can result in distress, a chronic illness. Caregiver stress can manifest in several ways. Recognizing and acknowledging the symptoms of distress can be challenging as caregivers primarily focus on taking care of others. Hence, creating awareness in terms of the signs and ways to better tackle issues faced by caregivers can ensure that they take care of themselves and those around them.
- One of the most critical aspects of successfully being a caregiver is to analyse how much can be done by you. It is essential to realistically understand what falls within your control and how you can impact that. Doing so can allow the caregiver ways to better deal with the situation at hand. Overcommitting yourself to a situation is a definite path to burnout and exhaustion. This will, in turn, reduce the time and care that you can provide to those in need.
- Asking for help when possible is another way to help those that are ill effectively. Practically recognizing that it would be better for the caregiver and for the person taken care of if the caregiver did not have their plate full. Reaching out for support in any capacity can help both parties in the long run.
- Studies have revealed that sharing one’s experiences with those who might have dealt with similar situations can positively impact people. Caregivers can find support groups dedicated to connecting people with similar experiences, thereby helping them cope with stress and emotions. You can share your problems or queries and get responses from those who might have experienced the same.
- As caregivers, people usually forget to take care of themselves. It can be pretty challenging to step away from the situation and divert your attention to other things. However, this can be a constructive way to avoid being counter-productive. While taking care, people forget to sleep, eat or take a time-out. This will have consequences for your health.
- Getting back to one’s hobbies or attending to one’s interests as caregivers can be remarkably beneficial to relax and calm down. Hobbies have shown to relieve stress and clear one’s head. Read a book, watch a movie, paint, or cook can help you recharge yourself, thereby allowing you to take care for more extended periods.
In conclusion, providing care and support to those in need, especially our family members, is part of our duty. However, putting yourself first and making sure you are healthy should not be associated with any form of guilt and shame. Take care of yourself with the same diligence with which you take care of someone else. These are trying times and acknowledge that attention is a limited resource, and as organisms, we function with a finite capacity. Focussing on different elements simultaneously will only decrease the value of work. In the end, maintaining a healthy body and mind can only enhance the quality of care one can provide to those in need.