How to get help
As we approach the end of the year, one thing is for certain: we are all very tired both mentally and physically in many cases. This year has been a very challenging one in many aspects, testing us and our capacity to get help after a rough challenge. In any case, one group of people have also had to deal with another barrier: a carer’s fatigue. Caregivers were/are some of the most crucial workers this year and this can include doctors, nurses, counsellors and support workers and many others unable to take care of themselves in a time where the world was, quite honestly, in a shambles. Carer fatigue, however, adds another layer to this. It occurs when a carer is unable to take care of themselves as they are too busy caring for others. This week’s article will outline what carer fatigue is in more detail and will provide you with some tips on fighting it if it is something you have been dealing with.
What is carer fatigue?
As the name suggests, carer fatigue refers to the fatigue or extreme level of exhaustion felt by carers who are responsible for the care of others. Carers’ responsibilities can range from providing well-being and comfort advice, checking in on their care recipients and their mental and physical health, monitoring their safety while providing them with as much independence and autonomy as possible. However, this does not mean that this is only a ‘job’ for carers: in most cases, caregivers are very connected to their patients and establish a strong connection with them, therefore they begin to feel responsible for them above and beyond. This feeling of responsibility can lead to the neglect of one’s own care, therefore leading to burnout.
How can I prevent or treat carer fatigue?
If you are a carer who has experienced this or is currently struggling with this, it is very important that you take action to improve the fatigue, tiredness and overwhelming feelings because if this continues, it could be dangerous for both parties involved. Not only can it cause great strain on you as a carer, but on your patients/clients too. The quality of care can be negatively affected as it is normal to become grumpy or to have a short fuse when overtired. There are loads of ways you can prevent this from happening, and one way is to make sure that you have regular rest also known as self-care so that the body can rejuvenate and recharge itself. Of course, this is easier said than done, but the key here is to focus on setting boundaries and recognising when you are heading downhill. If you begin to feel more irritable and begin resenting your job, maybe it’s time for some time to reflect on what you need to change because, if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got !
Another key factor in learning to overcome carer fatigue is to make sure you are having some sort of exercise, and to keep moving on a regular basis. Learning to overcome carer fatigue means getting plenty of sleep and exercise, but also eating a proper diet that gives the body all the nutrients it needs. Without getting the right amount of nutrients, the body can’t repair itself, which can cause many different problems, so taking care of yourself through exercise and eating right is very important. You may not be able to give as much help as you want at times, but if you feel there is any stress or strain on your care receiver, then discuss it with them and you can work to see how you can have your needs met while also providing them with the care they need.
At the end of the day, it’s all about boundaries. Being able to be a great carer lies in the extent to which you can care for yourself first. This follows the same thought pattern as the one in airplanes when parents are instructed to put on the oxygen mask before helping others– you cannot help if your own mental and physical health is hindered.
So, take care of yourself, set boundaries, know when you need time off, and give yourself enough time to rest!