Stressed Caregivers: Self-care via Body, Mind, and Spirit
Even the most resilient of caregivers will agree - the physical and mental demands of caregiving can take a toll on one’s wellbeing.
However, there’s a whole network of support systems and beneficial steps to help manage that responsibility.
To boost the physical and mental wellbeing of caregivers, this instalment of ‘You Ask, We Answer’ will provide an expert’s perspective on the support system available, as well as advice for caregivers and their loved ones in coping with the demands of caregiving.
Ms Karen Poh
Volunteer Manager - Caregivers Alliance Limited
How can a family member or friend communicate, encourage and/or help a stressed caregiver?
To support a stressed caregiver, a loved one can look at the three different aspects of a person, namely the physical, the emotional, and for those who are religious, the spiritual.
Loved ones looking to console a stressed caregiver in a more physical and tangible manner can consider the following steps:
- Spend time with them such as having a meal, shopping or catching a movie together, and provide your friendship or companionship.
- Give them a simple touch, like holding their hands, or a hug if it’s appropriate.
- If you can, extend your assistance with household chores.
- Be there for them. Even if you’re unable to help, your mere presence can let them know that they are not alone and provide comfort to them.
Through empathy and active listening, a loved one can lift the spirits of an overwhelmed caregiver by:
- Showing your willingness to engage with them and letting them pour out their sorrows to you.
- Practising compassionate listening, without judgement or trying to impose your views on them.
- Exercising a little empathy to understand the circumstances they are in and accepting that the caregiver is doing their best.
For caregivers and loved ones who draw support from religion, loved ones can:
- Keep them in your prayers, or opt to pray with them.
- Send them motivational texts.
2. What avenues/channels can a stressed caregiver turn to for help, such as people they can approach, or organisations that can support them?
Personally, I work with the professionals that were involved with my son, who is also my care recipient.
Besides working with professionals, caregivers can consider the following organisations for help, as I did.
Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) refers caregivers to a whole array of service providers who can lend a hand with care support, as well as advice on financial support caregivers can tap on. Family Service Centres are also very helpful in providing a multitude of services and can be found in most HDB estates.
For those caring for a person with mental health issues, the Singapore Association for Mental Health has various resources, services, and support. There’s also the Caregivers Alliance (CAL), which provides psycho-social education and emotional support to caregivers of people with mental health issues. For example, caregivers who face similar concerns can also attend CAL’s Caregiver-To-Caregiver (C2C) course, which has very supportive facilitators. The course helps one become a more informed caregiver and to better manage and regulate emotions.
All in all, there are various professionals and groups that are able to help throughout one’s caregiving journey.
3. What are some practical tips a caregiver can adopt to destress?
Caregivers are also human, and therefore we must consider their Body, Mind and Spirit.
- Ensure that your body is receiving sufficient nutrition, with a balanced diet of all food types.
- Get a minimum of six to eight hours of sleep and try to stick to a routine by going to bed at the same time every night.
- Don’t forget regular physical activities such as exercise, dancing, cycling, etc, to help keep your body fit (there are activities available even if one is homebound). Physical activities also produce serotonin, (also known as the happy hormone) that can keep you in a good state of mind for a few hours at a time.
- Stay grounded and calm your mind by practising Mindfulness or Yoga to help you be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surrounding.
- Music can help calm, relax, and elevate your mood.
- For those who are religious, attending religious meetings/gathering can provide hope. Those who are homebound and attend these meetings online too.
- Take a break from the cluttered world by going for a walk.
- Take part in volunteering opportunities or charity, which can also evoke a deep sense of satisfaction through the helping of another person.
It would be good if you can pick out at least one tip from each category to help you live a balanced life.