Caregiver Support

What is a caregiver?

A caregiver is someone who takes on an informal, unpaid caring role. Caregivers can be friends, family, or volunteers. Caregiving can be rewarding because you may:

  • Feel a sense of giving with no expectations
  • Learn valuable life lessons
  • Share important moments with a loved one and create special memories
  • Strengthen bonds between you and your loved one(s)

Although caregiving can be rewarding, it can also be difficult. There are many things in your life that may be impacted by caregiving for a loved one, including:

  • Physical health: Caring for a loved one can be hard on your body and can affect many things including your diet, exercise, and sleep routine.
  • Emotional health: Seeing someone you love deal with an illness can be hard enough. Having to care for this person can be even more difficult as you cope with their deteriorating health. You may also experience loneliness, helplessness and guilt.
  • Social life: By taking care of a loved one you may feel isolated from family or friends. You may also feel that your personal and social life is being put on pause while you take care of your loved one.

It is important to understand that these are all normal feelings and experiences that may come with care taking for a loved one who is sick.

Compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue is commonly experienced by caretakers. This is a feeling or emotion resulting from seeing a loved one going through a traumatic event, such as an illness, and helping or wanting to help this person. There are many signs of compassion fatigue including:

  • Feeling discouraged
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hopelessness
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Negativity

Self care

Self care is any activity or event that helps to ease stress and allows you to promote your emotional, mental and physical health. Self care is important for everyone but especially caregivers because it:

  • Helps prevent burnout and compassion fatigue
  • Improves relationships with the person you are caring for and your loved ones
  • Makes you more effective, as a caregiver and in your other responsibilities

Self care activities

There are many types of self care and they are highly personal and adaptive. Here are some examples:

  • Eat well
  • Get restful sleep
  • Try to make exercise a part of your daily routine
  • Find a person you trust to chat with and share your thoughts
  • Play a game
  • Read a book
  • Speak with others caretakers

If you are caring for someone with a chronic illness, or who is experiencing a loss of health or other ongoing health-related concerns, you can access support. Caregivers Alberta is a non-profit organization that works to connect caregivers with the resources and supports they need to avoid burnout and maintain their own wellbeing.

Medical alert systems

For patients and their families, having a system in place to monitor wellbeing can reduce stress and offer peace of mind. There are different options depending on the level of support that is required. Below are some different medical alert systems:

  • Lifeline Medical Alert
  • TELUS Health – LivingWell Companion
  • DirectAlert

References

This material was adapted from content by:

Dr. Cheryl Nekolaichuk

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