Caregiving can be challenging, more so if you have to juggle caregiving with other work and lifestyle demands. This may result in caregivers neglecting their own health. If you are a caregiver, it is important to know when to reach out for help, not only for the care recipient but also for yourself.
Recognising signs of stress
Many people do not realise they are caregivers, and are therefore unprepared when stress takes its toll. You are a caregiver if you are:
- Sharing responsibility for someone's health, well-being & safety
- Looking after someone who isn't able to take care of himself or herself
- Helping someone with daily living activities like bathing & feeding, or
- Taking care of someone suffering from physical or mental illness or disabilities.
As a caregiver, it is important that you keep a close watch over your own well-being. Watch out for these signs of caregiving stress before they cause you to burn out:
- Constant fatigue
- Feelings of depression & frustration
- Quickness to anger & irritation
- Sudden weight loss or gain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should take immediate measures to address them. Follow these tips:
- Take frequent breaks as needed so that you are well-rested.
- Make time for your personal life. Spend time with friends to unwind & recharge.
- Learn to focus on your successes as a caregiver, rather than feeling guilty about not being the perfect one. You are doing the best you can.
- Ask family members for help so you can have some time to yourself.
- Plan your finances so money does not become a stress trigger. Familiarise yourself with the financial assistance schemes available.
Getting support from the healthcare community
Attending to your care recipient's medical needs can be taxing. It is a good idea to look to healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and medical social workers as your extended caregiving team. Go to them if you need information, support and help. Bring along a family member or trusted friend if you want help with taking down information, remembering instructions or asking difficult questions that you are uncomfortable with. Establish a good relationship with them. It can take a load off you.
Getting community support
You are not alone in your caregiving journey. There are many others who face similar challenges, or who have been there and know how to handle stress triggers, or advise you on how to deal with a specific illness.
Joining a support group can be helpful. You can share your burdens, and turn to others whose knowledge and support can be invaluable. There are many such groups at hospitals, in the community and even online.
You can also visit AICare Link, a resource centre for caregivers. With 5 locations across the island, you can obtain advice on various aspects of caregiving, from how and where to find care services to what grants and schemes you might qualify for.
If you need time away to attend to personal matters or de-stress, there are short-term relief or respite care services available. These places provide care recipients with meals, exercise and social programmes, as well as trained professionals to attend to their daily needs. If you simply need a few hours off during the weekend, you can bring your care recipient to a Centre-Based Weekend Respite Care centre. Fees are applicable. For longer relief periods, you can consider the Nursing Home Respite Care programme that provides care services for between 7 and 30 days.
- Use the E-care Locator to find respite care centres or other social & healthcare providers near you. The directory is searchable by location or services needed. It is available also as a mobile app.
Getting financial assistance
If financial worries give you stress, there is help available too. Depending on your needs, you can consider applying for the following schemes: