The Care For Caregivers program
In today’s blog post, I would like to look at the role of carers, describe some of the challenges caregivers face, explore supports caregivers can reach for, and explain my Care For Caregivers program.
The role of caregiver
As life expectancies increase, medical treatments advance, and increasing numbers of people live with chronic illness and disabilities, more and more people find themselves caring for a loved one at home. Being a Caregiver can be tough and unfortunately life doesn’t slow down to give you time to get used to and grow into your new role. Providing care for a loved one in need is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty; Day after day, you gift your loved one your care and attention, improving their quality of life, even if they’re unable to express their gratitude to you. But as much as caring for a loved one is loving, kind, compassionate and a very rewarding experience, it is also an extremely challenging and draining one.
I have been there myself. I was my husband’s caregiver during the final ten months of his life. I became his caregiver gradually, taking on more and more responsibilities as he could do less and less because of his ongoing chemotherapy treatment and the rapid progression of his illness. The more I entered my role as caregiver the more acutely I was aware that I didn’t want our life to change, that I didn’t want to change my role from wife to caregiver, that I didn’t even want to be both, and that the only thing I really wanted was to keep my strong, capable, kind, loving, caring, funny, playful husband with whom I was meant to grow old together and without whom life was unimaginable. I loved caring for my husband, but found it a very challenging task at times.
Looking back today, I know that I should have reached out for support from family and friends, even from organisations in my community, to help both me and my husband during this very difficult time. We way too often feel that we have to do it all alone or even that it would be a sign of weakness if we asked for help and support when, in fact, it would be a sign of strength and growth to do so.
What I am doing today is to help carers through my own experience as caregiver, with the holistic therapies I offer, and with my experience as End Of Life Doula (End Of Life Companion).
Caregiver fatigue, caregiver exhaustion, caregiver burnout
Caregiver fatigue – also called caregiver burnout and caregiver exhaustion – occurs when the caregiver feels physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted; and it is something experienced by many, especially when they have been the sole caregiver for a long time. Often this carer fatigue leads to feeling overwhelmed, feeling depressed, feeling anxious and fearful, and even resentment towards the person we are caring for.
I myself have on occasion experienced the caregiver fatigue. Looking back today, I really don’t know how I did all the things I did and it doesn’t surprise me that I was sometimes impatient with my husband or on a few occasions lashed out at him, that I felt low in myself, stressed out with everyone, unable to focus. Sometimes it was all too much to bear.
We have to understand that the carers fatigue, carers exhaustion, or even carers burnout are not happening because we aren’t a “good enough carer” or because we are “too weak” or “just not made for this role” but that they occur as a sign that we are really in need of support.
Caring for someone can be very rewarding and can bring you closer together, but it can also be challenging and sometimes upsetting. Many carers can all too easily get caught in a cycle of resentment and guilt – resentful that their life is no longer their own, and guilty for feeling like this. Sometimes there is this need to “just do my own thing for a while”, and feeling guilty to even have had this thought. It is important to acknowledge these feelings and not bottle them up. It is important to make sure that you look after yourself, even if this makes you feel guilty too because you are so used to thinking of your loved one and to put your own needs first, even only for a little while, has become quite foreign to you. The truth is that we can only be good carers when we are physically, emotionally and mentally in a good place.
You can only be a good, loving, kind, compassionate and competent carer when you look after yourself. Consider making a little time for yourself regularly and to fill this time with things you love (or used to love). Maybe you like to go for a brisk walk. Maybe you like to listen to music. Maybe you like to read the latest novel by your favourite author. Maybe you just like to get in the car and drive around for a while. Let it be something that you find deeply relaxing, something that helps you to switch off for a little while. Talk about your feelings in relation to your role as carer to the person you are caring for or, if that doesn’t seem appropriate or isn’t possible, to someone else that you trust. If you can, talk to your friends and family. Let them know how you are managing and ask them for their support and help.
If you don’t feel able to share with friends and family, talking to other carers can help. They will be familiar with what you are going through and may be able to suggest solutions that have worked for them. Do you know someone who has been a carer? Is there a carers’ group nearby? Can you join an online carers’ discussion forum? Talking to others about your situation will help give some context to how you feel so the difficult feelings don’t get built up out of proportion. Maybe writing is something that helps you. I know many carers who have found it really helpful to take some minutes each day to write both about their day and their feelings in relation to what’s been going on during the day.
Care for caregivers program
As a family caregiver you face many responsibilities and challenges. Whether you’re taking care of an aging parent, a chronically ill spouse, or a child with a physical or mental illness, providing care for a loved one in need is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty. Regardless of your particular circumstances, being a family caregiver is also a challenging role and likely one that you haven’t been trained to undertake. And like many family caregivers you probably never anticipated these circumstances. Maybe you are feeling quite alone in this situation. But you are not alone. As we have already mentioned, you can reach out to family and friends or to other carers in your community. I have created a program that you may also find helpful: the Care For Caregivers program. I created this program because I know that with the right help and support, you can provide loving, effective care without having to sacrifice yourself in the process – and that can make family caregiving a more rewarding experience—for both you and your loved one.
Maybe the dynamic of your relationship has changed, you care so fundamentally for your loved one that you want to be there and care for their needs in the best possible way, and it becomes really hard to balance the needs of your loved one, your needs as the caregiver, the needs of your relationship with one another and the needs of you as a person. It is important at that point that you begin to look after yourself and, even though this may seem impossible for you right now as all the focus is on your caregiving duties, it is not only possible but also crucial to do this. The more you take good care of yourself the better a caregiver you can be. Reaching out for support takes courage but, believe me, you will be glad you did.
The focus of this 2-months program is to get you to a place where you feel more equipped to handle the physical, emotional, and mental stress of your situation. During the program you will find inner peace and calm and return to your own personal power centre so that you are able to support yourself and the person you are caring for. You will learn to interrupt your busy mind and come into stillness where deep healing is possible. And you will learn that taking out a little time for yourself is necessary for you as a caregiver and absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.
The Reiki healing helps you to come into a deep inner stillness and calm where you for a change are the one to receive care and comfort. The Reiki healing also helps you to release whatever feelings you may be holding that get in the way of you being your best self such as frustration with your loved one or fear because of their condition.
The weekly support calls give you a chance to talk about the daily struggles you are facing as a caregiver and we will talk about possible solutions to these.
The essential oils, which I provide at the start of the program and which we use throughout our work together, help you to ground yourself, to be in the moment, and to not forget about yourself despite everything. This way you will be able to provide excellent care to your loved one while not forgetting about yourself and your own needs.
Initially, we will be working together for two months. However, this is not set in stone so if you feel that you need ongoing support, we can continue our work. I am here to walk with you on this journey and help you in whatever way I can.