Caregiving: An Act of Love That Is Not Always Recognized
The work of caregivers is not only one of the greatest acts of love, it is also the greatest acts of justice. Because even though there are incurable diseases, no person should be considered to be someone who is not capable of being cared for. Therefore, this is one of the most important actions of society, but also the least recognized by our institutions.
Caregiving involves being able to provide an adequate quality of life to an elderly or sick person while caring for oneself. Primary caregivers can experience overload, the feeling of loneliness and the disconnection with their environment. But all the love and dedication invested should never lead to emotional exhaustion or feelings of loneliness.
We still have a long way to go in terms of supporting and recognizing caregivers. We must also remember that the caregiving sector encompasses not only caring for elderly or people with dementia, but also those who suffer from spinal cord injuries, mental illness, cerebral palsy and the great, yet invisible group of rare diseases.
Caregivers and the role of women
Caring for a person who is sick, elderly or has a disability has traditionally been the job of women. Caregiving has almost always been a “women"s issue" and complicating this further, until recently, none of these women received assistance, tools or advice on how to care for others or themselves.
Fortunately, these traditional roles are changing and although the “primary caregiver" is still more commonly a woman, she now has greater resources, such as day centers, residential centers and the advice of trainers who train caregivers on the proper care of the dependent patient.
However, it is still very common to see the following health problems in caregivers themselves:
- Increased tendency to suffer from depression, anxiety or stress a very high level.
- Feeling of frustration, of not doing things right or not covering all the needs of the patient.
- Feeling of loneliness.
- Frequent fatigue.
- Muscle pain.
- Frequent headaches.
- Stomach and gastric discomfort.
- The perception that their own health is very bad, or at least much worse than the medical tests reveal.
- Highly prone to infections.
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An act of love, an act of justice: strategies to carry out care in a healthy manner
Since we already know that much of the care for dependent people takes place in a family environment, we must also ask ourselves a simple question…Who will be in charge of “taking care of the caregiver"?
Caregivers find their daily breath in love, but sometimes the engine of your heart is not enough when strength fails and loneliness appears…
It is important to understand that the person who looks after the patients may reach situations that harm their own physical and psychological health. However, due to the sincere love and absolute dedication between the caregiver and the dependent, it is likely that he or she is very reluctant to take a break, share the responsibilities or dedicate time to him or herself. All this sums up to what would be the “caregiver syndrome“.
We offer some strategies that can be useful to us in these cases.
Not everyone is born with the vocation of being a “caregiver". Most likely it is life itself that puts us into this situation by circumstance.
- The first step will be to receive counseling and adequate information about the disease afflicting our family member, what kind of care is needed and how to carry it out.
- The second pillar to consider is to avoid social isolation. Delegating tasks and responsibilities to other family members and professionals is appropriate, necessary and healthy.
- We have to strengthen the autonomy of the patient to the greatest extent possible. Habits such as using the bathroom or eating should be reinforced. All this also affects the self-esteem of the dependent person.
- We all know that caregivers are often forced to carry the burden of the family. They need to receive training on how to perform these tasks.
- Adequate nutrition and moments of leisure. Eating in a varied, balanced way by avoiding nutritional deficits is essential. It is also important to not leave out the hobbies, passions and those daily breaks by simply going for a walk at least half an hour every day.
- Communication skills. Last but not least, we can promote a positive emotional release on the part of caregivers, and thus the communication skills needed to express fears, anxieties, overload…
Anonymous caregivers who live today in the privacy of their homes carry out a huge task in our society that is not always recognized by institutions. However, it is something that, as families, we value. Caregiving is loving and appreciating the other as part of oneself.
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