This happened back in 2019 when one of my grandfather’s closest friends met with an accident. He was brought back home with a broken rib. As he lived all by himself, I volunteered to help him with his daily chores until he recovered. It was only for three months, but that made me think about the ordeal most caregivers go through and the ones who dedicate their entire life to taking care of the elderly.
As per the AARP, almost 43.5 million people have been working as unpaid caregivers for children or adults in a year, in the USA alone. Most of them (about 82%) care for a single adult. Only 30% of the caregivers spend less than a year in caregiving. The rest continue it for years together. As per the latest report by Times of India, women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work which would contribute approximately 19 lakh crore a year to the economy.
A caregiver helps older people, the specially-abled, or any person with an illness, in carrying out their day to day activities. They may or may not be paid for the service they provide and might not be formally trained in the required field. Caregiving can start with something as small as taking your parents to the doctor every month for a routine check-up. Most family caregivers care for their loved ones while pursuing a full-time job. Caregiving can be for anyone – your sibling, grandparents, neighbours, relatives, or complete strangers.
Essential traits of a caregiver
While caring for oneself comes naturally to all of us, things shift into a different gear when you have to care for someone else. Being a caregiver is not an easy task. You need to have each of the following traits if you plan to care for someone.
- Problem Solving Ability
What’s it like to be a caregiver?
Since caregivers spend a good portion of their time taking care of a single person, they tend to get emotionally attached. This is likely to happen whether or not they are related to the patient. When caregivers take up the job, they devote themselves completely to it. They devote their time, effort, energy, and love for the patient and expect nothing but love in return. Psychologists are even found suggesting caregiving as a treatment for loneliness, which in turn gives the caregivers a fresh start and something to look forward to. Most informal caregivers take upcharge when the patient is no longer able to provide for formal or high costing treatment. Informal caregiving potentially gives a positive effect on the caregivers by providing them with a new environment to cope with and people to share the love with.
Mental Health of Caregivers
Sometimes caring for others consumes us to the extent that we tend to forget about self-love and self-care. As the responsibilities on their shoulders increase with time, self-love gets pushed away further and they start to neglect their own mental and physical health in pursuit of caring for others. Research shows that caregivers who provide care to bedridden patients are at risk of experiencing “caregiver burden.” This burden can cause the caregiver to spend less time with friends and family. They might neglect self-care activities like proper sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits.
Caregivers are more prone to depression and anxiety attacks than ordinary people as they witness the emotional trauma of their patients from close quarters. They may unconsciously start to feel a sense of frustration if their mental and physical health goes unnoticed. It might result in an unsafe circumstance for both the caregiver and the patient.
What can we do about it?
Personally, my experience as a caregiver for my uncle has changed my opinion a lot, about the profession. Earlier I used to think that taking up a job as a caregiver is comfortable and in demand. But after serving as an untrained caregiver for my uncle, I realized how difficult it is to balance my own life and care for the patient. It made me understand that caring for someone can have a significant impact on the caregiver’s mental and physical health.
Being emotionally stable before taking up a caregiving job is essential. Periodic checks on the mental and emotional well-being of the caregivers prescribed by the AARP must be made compulsory. If you know a caregiver, make sure to check on them. You can help them in a crisis by doing these small things for them.
Employers must take time to check the background and health state of a caregiver before they employ one. Even if it is your relative, never hesitate to question their health because it is most natural to know more about the person who will be taking care of your loved one. Let us care and support the carers who have been caring for us and our family members.
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