Caregivers give their all, taking on hefty emotional demands daily. But what happens when their emotional tank becomes empty? They’ll need emotional support to stay sane and do their jobs to the best of their ability.
This article will examine several reasons why carers need emotional support, as well as actions that you can take to care for caregivers. If you’re interested in learning more, then keep on reading!
Reasons Why Carers Need Emotional Support
Life can spin out of control when you suddenly become a caregiver. To keep caregivers well, they need emotional support. The following sections will outline the reasons why carers need emotional support.
Carers are Often Isolated
When a family member or friend is needed to care for someone else, they may deal with isolation. They may stop hanging out with friends, associates, or even family members to ensure that they are available to provide care.
Some people withdraw from caregivers because they don’t want to hear about the trials and tribulations that come with caring for someone else.
The physical and mental isolation that comes with caregiving can be debilitating and can lead to serious mental disorders. But at the very least, carers often feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness.
Loneliness is a precursor to mental health problems, like:
- Problems with self-esteem
This is not an exhaustive list. Loneliness can lead to many more mental health conditions. Carers need support to stave off loneliness and isolation so that they can provide the highest level of care to their loved ones.
Stress is Common Among Carers
Not only do caregivers deal with loneliness, but they also deal with high levels of stress—some venture to say that being a caregiver is one of the most stressful things to deal with.
The duties that caregivers need to complete can range from cooking and cleaning to bathing and helping with toilet needs. Completing these tasks, in addition to taking care of themselves, can get stressful really quickly.
Moreover, many caregivers dispense medications, and for impromptu caregivers who don’t have a medical background, this can be particularly stressful. These carers don’t feel confident in their ability to adequately care for their loved ones, and this can add an additional layer of stress to an already trying situation.
Not to mention the carers that are tasked with helping their loved ones reach dietary or exercise goals. When a goal is unmet, carers feel the stress of the failure.
Over time, these duties can lead to extreme stress, and prolonged stress can lead to the following effects:
- Depression: According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, it is estimated that 20% of family caregiverssuffer from depression- this translates to 1 in 5 people. For comparison’s sake, in the general population, only 10% of people suffer from depression. This means that caregivers are diagnosed with depression twice as often as non-caregivers.
- Problems with digestion: Prolonged stress can manifest in digestive problems like heartburn, IBS, and IBD.
- Weight gain: Stress and weight gain go hand in hand, especially when food is used as a tool for stress relief.
There are many more problems that stem from long-term stress, and these effects may range from mild to severe. In the worst cases, they can interfere with a carer’s ability to take care of themselves, let alone anyone else.
For these reasons, support is imperative to reduce the incidence of negative mental health outcomes in carers.
Carers Put Their Loved Ones First
You may already know that carers don’t put themselves first, but do you really know the gravity of the situation? Often, carers totally forget about themselves when they begin to care for someone else.
The leads to them neglecting their own emotional and physical health. This is not done on purpose, but it often happens because of the heavy demands placed on caregivers’ shoulders.
Since many carers are too busy caring for others to consider caring for themselves, they need someone else to provide emotional support.
Family Problems Arise
Another reason why carers need emotional support concerns their family. When someone takes on the care of a loved one, other members of their family may protest. Often, carers who have their own families may end up neglecting their own family while they care for someone who is in greater need of help.
The caregiver may have young children who crave more time with them, or they may miss out on important milestones in their family members’ lives. This can lead to the formation of deep-seated family issues and emotional turmoil.
Caregivers who deal with family-related problems may exhibit cloudy thinking, a quick temper, sadness, depression, and other emotional problems.
Money Issues Cause Emotional Problems
Caring for a loved one takes time, and caregivers may need to take time off of work to make time to provide the necessary care. Time that carers take off from work is often unpaid, which can create financial issues for the caregiver, especially if the loved one cannot help the caregiver pay for their expenses.
Financial issues are known to be one of the leading causes of emotional problems. When you can’t afford to take care of yourself, even though it’s because you were doing a good deed, your emotional health may still suffer.
Several studies show that financial worries are linked to mental health problems- it’s a vicious cycle. The stress of worrying about finances can cause you to feel depressed. Depression leaves your mind unclear, making it harder to make sound financial decisions. As you make bad financial decisions, this can lead to heightened depression, and the cycle continues.
Caregivers Deal with Abuse
It’s not out of the ordinary for caregivers to deal with hostility. Often, for people dealing with a debilitating illness or condition, frustration can set in. When this happens, the caregiver may bear the brunt of their loved one’s frustrations. Sometimes, elders or needy family members purposely chip away at their caregivers because their emotional issues are too much to bear.
Not only do caregivers deal with emotional abuse, but they may also deal with physical abuse, which is also mentally degrading. There are plenty of stories detailing situations where carers were slapped, kicked, or otherwise physically abused by someone they were caring for. Physical abuse is emotionally draining and can lead to injuries that could take carers some time to overcome.
Here are some common types of abuse that caregivers deal with:
- Insults: If a recipient of care becomes frustrated with the caregiver’s service, they may insult their intelligence or an unrelated trait.
- Yelling: Sometimes loved ones, especially parents of caregivers, bark orders to caregivers instead of asking nicely. This can cause caregivers to feel belittled and undervalued.
- Making threats: People receiving care may use unsavory means to get what they want, and threats may be used to get them their desired result.
This is by no means a complete list of caregiver abuse. While these are not physical forms of abuse, they are no less serious, and they can have a detrimental effect on the mental state of the caregiver.
Abuse is a leading cause of many mental disorders, including:
- Social awkwardness
Often, caregivers have to make a choice between getting out of the abusive situation and continuing to care for their abusive loved one. Carers who are dealing with abuse need support to navigate situations like this and to get out of abusive situations.
Physical Demands are Many
Carers take on a ton of physical demands that can lead to physical exhaustion. Physical exhaustion is not only a physical issue, but it can also grow into an emotional problem that may be difficult to pinpoint or alleviate. Getting into a cycle of physical exhaustion can drive caregivers crazy.
When carers take on the care of a family member who has mobility issues, they may spend a good portion of the day repositioning their loved one, pushing around a wheelchair, and completing other physical actions. Completing these tasks not only takes time, but over time, it can also lead to chronic pain and injuries that can take a real toll.
Anyone who deals with chronic pain or an injury knows about the emotional struggles that can creep in. Not to mention the fact that a serious injury can make a caregiver unable to continue providing care. Emotional support is needed when a caregiver is dealing with chronic pain or an injury.
Lack of Social Development
A considerable number of carers are young and impressionable. Unfortunately, young people who have to care for their elders or an ill family member are often unable to socialize with kids their age. This can lead to a lack of normal social and emotional development.
The demands of caregiving can be so heavy that young caregivers never feel like they get a break. They may feel trapped, like there is no way out. In addition, caregivers may not yet know how to release their frustrations in a healthy way, leading to experimental drugs and self-destructive behaviors.
Support is needed specifically for young carers to minimize the risk of self-destruction due to a lack of proper social and emotional development. This will also help care recipients, as a stable young carer is much more helpful and dependable than one who is struggling to stay alive and out of jail.
Lack of Knowledge
A large number of caregivers are suddenly thrust into a caregiving role, be it due to an accident or recent diagnosis. There is a definite learning curve for caregiving, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, caregiving can be extremely difficult.
Trying day in and day out to provide good care without the right information can be hard on your self-esteem. Though you cannot be expected to do a great job without having gathered the appropriate knowledge, people still take it hard when they don’t do a great job.
Failing to succeed in providing care can lead to feelings of:
7 Ways to Provide Emotional Support to Carers
We trust that by this point in the article, you know why carers need emotional support. From the youngest to the oldest, caregivers deal with situations that could break the strongest mind. To combat the negative effects of caring for others, you can take the initiative and support them.
In the following sections, we will explore several ways that you can provide emotional support to carers.
Give Them a Listening Ear
After a long day of caring for a loved one, a caregiver may be emotionally exhausted. She may feel like the world is crashing down on her, and he/she needs to release some tension. One great way to support a carer is to give them a listening ear.
Listening to a carer talk through their problems is one of the best ways to support them. Listening actively, without paying attention to anything else, can set the stage for a carer to unload feelings that may have been buried for a while. You may be surprised by the healing that can take place just by voicing your concerns to someone who loves you.
The carer might begin talking about their day right when they come into the house. If you don’t live with them, they may call you up and drop hints about their challenging day. This is a clear indication that they need to talk about something.
There is an art to listening to a caregiver, and the following tips will teach you how to be a good listener:
- Whenever they begin to talk about their day, listen intently without focusing on anything else. It’s difficult to talk about your vulnerabilities and problems, especially if you have become accustomed to caring for others. So, it doesn’t take a lot to make a caregiver feel uncomfortable with sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings.
- Encourage them to talk without being too direct. You can speak indirectly about caregivers in general when trying to get them to talk.
- Make sure that they know that you have set aside time to talk to them. You can let them know that nothing else is more important to you than talking to them at that moment.
Take Over Household Chores
Carers are often overworked day in and day out, so if you visit or live with a carer, you can take some of the pressure off by taking on some of the household chores. If you’re just popping over for a visit, offer to do the dishes, or offer to take the dog for a walk. If you live with a caregiver, help with the chores without asking.
You could also offer to take care of chores that the carer would have done for their loved one. You can offer to go to the store- this will save them a ton of time.
Don’t be discouraged or offended if they do not accept your help. Oftentimes, even when we are run down, we prefer to do things on our own. Even if they refuse, let them know that you are available to help if needed. They may just take you up on your offer in the future.
Whenever you do get the opportunity to pitch in, do your absolute best so that they won’t have to go back and correct any mistakes that you made.
If you’re having trouble figuring out where you may be able to help, feel free to use the below list to help:
- Vacuum the floor.
- Do the dishes.
- Clean the bathroom.
- Cook a delicious meal.
- Mow the lawn.
- Do a load of laundry.
These are just a few things that you can do to help relieve some pressure from a caregiver. Use your imagination- there are tons of ways that you can help.
Tips on How to Offer Help
Be very specific with what you’re offering to help with. If you are not specific, the carer will have to think of something for you to do, and this could add yet one more thing to their to-do list. Being specific also helps because it can be difficult to think about what you need help with at the drop of a hat.
When you lessen a caregiver’s load, they may have more time for themselves, and they can begin to implement self-care. There’s no doubt that this will help to improve a caregiver’s emotional state.
Keep Up with Them
As mentioned a bit earlier, it can be difficult for caregivers to find time to be social. Depending on who the carer cares for, they may not be able to leave their house very often. So, another great way to support a caregiver is to reach out to them.
Depending on your relationship with them, you can shoot them a text asking them how their day is going. If you have a moment, call them and talk to them for a little while.
Alternatively, you can drop in for a visit. Seeing a familiar face can do wonders for a caregiver’s mood. Just make sure that you ask whether it’s okay to drop by before doing so. Dropping by uninvited could throw off their day and make things awkward.
Staying in touch with a caregiver can help in the following ways:
- Break the monotony. When you’re a caregiver, your days tend to run together, and life can become a monotonous cycle of caring and sleeping. Getting a call from your best friend or loved one can interrupt this cycle and brighten a carer’s day.
- Chance to release. Calling a caregiver gives them the opportunity to talk about their everyday issues, and voicing these issues can help them cope.
Seek Out Help for Them
You may not be aware, but there are resources available for carers. If you know a caregiver who is obviously struggling, get on your laptop or computer and find some resources that may help them.
There is a right way to provide care, and there is a wrong way. Maybe the caregiver you know is having trouble providing care. Perhaps they don’t know how to plan out medication doses or need guidance on how to properly care for their loved ones. If this is the case, nudge them in the right direction with one of many websites targeted at educating caregivers.
Here are a couple of resources that caregivers can use to sharpen their skills:
- Medline Plus – This is a website geared towards providing helpful information to caregivers. All of the information comes from the National Library of Medicine. You can find articles that help you with basic caregiving skills, resources that come in handy when caring for different age groups, and demonstrative videos on helpful topics.
- National Institutes on Aging – This resource is helpful to caregivers who care for elders. Since they deal with unique issues, it’s essential for caregivers to know what to expect when caring for older people and how to adequately care for them.
- Alzheimers.gov – Caregivers who care for people with Alzheimer’s deal with a very specific set of struggles and scenarios. Letting a caregiver know about this resource can give them some much-needed direction on how to provide the best possible care.
Some caregivers struggle because of a lack of knowledge, and giving them the resources to hone their skills can make the many different aspects of their job easier to complete. This also means that the care recipient will receive better care.
Find Money for Them
Since caregivers focus so intently on the ones they care for, they often neglect their own lives, and their finances often suffer. Luckily, there are resources available for caregivers, and while they do exist, the only way to know for sure is to check for resources in your state. On your downtime, you can locate resources for the carer in your life.
Below are a few types of financial relief given to caregivers (US based information):
- Structured Family Caregiving – In some states, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offers the caregiver in the family cash and additional resources for the work that they do for the disabled family member. Do an internet search for “structured family caregiving” in your state to see if this financial resource may be available.
- Financial assistance for carers of veterans. If a caregiver you know is caring for a veteran, there may be financial assistance available to them. The carer may qualify for any of the following benefits:Veteran Directed Home and Community-Based Services, the Aid and Attendance Benefit, Veterans Pensions, or the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
- Medicaid Cash and Counseling Programs. In some states, you may be able to be paid in cash for the care that you provide. Make sure that you tell the caregiver to check their state’s requirements for this benefit so they can make sure that they meet them. They may need to check their state’s Medicaid website to locate these benefits.
Before you present your findings to the caregiver, try to collect as much information as possible. This will make it easier for the carer to explore their financial options. Getting financial help while providing care can be exactly what a caregiver needs- alleviating financial stress can do wonders for a carer’s emotional health.
Give to Caregivers
If you cannot do any of the above things to support the carer in your life, you can give them a gift from time to time.
Whether it be money or a gift card for a spa day, giving them something that will enable them to relax after a particularly trying day. A foot massager can do wonders after long days on your feet.
And, while it’s great to coax them to relax, giving a carer the gift of relaxation could eventually prompt them to care for themselves!
Tell Them How Great They’re Doing
While it’s important to listen to carers when they bare their souls and tell you what’s going on with them, sometimes giving them some feedback can be just as helpful. Caregiving can be a thankless job. A carer may be providing extensive care to a recipient who is either unwilling or unable to thank them.
Continually working without feeling appreciated can be hard on anyone’s emotional health. So, hearing it from you can do the opposite. This could be exactly what a carer needs to keep going and has the potential to increase their self-esteem by leaps.
Watch How You Communicate
When you talk to a carer, there are certain things that you should avoid.
For instance, you want to avoid telling them that they look tired. This can erode their self-esteem immediately, especially if they don’t think they appear tired.
It’s also a good idea to avoid speaking negatively about the person that they care for. While they may be having difficulty coping with the situation, chances are they still care deeply about their loved ones.
Always speak with compassion and positivity about their job as a caregiver. This will help to ensure that you don’t offend them or cause them any emotional distress.
Now you know why carers need emotional support, and you know about several ways that you can provide emotional support to help them cope. We hope that this article is helpful to you in your pursuit of information about carers.