Around two million dependent people in Spain require the help of a carer, who, moreover, in most cases is not a professional. Overload is one of the risks faced by carers.
Raising awareness of the role that carers assume and the overload they carry is highlighted in the World Carers Day (November 5), a task that is physically and emotionally draining.
This activity, in most cases, is carried out by relatives of the dependent person, specifically women, without this task being officially registered.
Ten tips against caregiver overload
The doctor Julio Maset, Cinfa company doctorrecommends a series of advices to prevent caregiver overload and protect their health:
- Be informed about your loved one’s illness and the resources available. Knowing the symptoms of each phase will help you better understand the different situations and be prepared. You can get information from health centers or patient associations related to their pathology, where they can also advise you on possible financial resources, day hospitals or relief services.
- Get organized and establish a care plans. Establish a daily routine to manage your time. Make sure you have moments to relax and rest.
- team up. Try to get the rest of the family members to collaborate as well, divide the tasks between them all.
- Stay active and connected. In your spare time, try to dedicate time to yourself and avoid doing tasks in another area. Exercise regularly and continue to practice hobbies. Don’t isolate yourself, set aside time to connect with your family and friends.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet, and set personal health goals if necessary, such as getting the required number of hours of sleep.
- Go to your medical appointments. Don’t neglect your health and see your doctor when necessary.
- Learn to relax. Performing breathing exercises, practicing yoga, tai chi or meditating will help you feel more relaxed. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that can help you combat stress.
- Recognize and manage your emotions. Express at all times how you feel and accept negative feelings, such as guilt, if they appear. Remember that no one is the perfect caregiver, and seek help from a health professional if you feel overwhelmed.
- It promotes the autonomy of the dependent person. Encouraging the dependent person to carry out by themselves the tasks that they can still take care of is important to strengthen their self-esteem.
- Join a caregiver support group. You will be able to share experiences and strategies to increase both your and your own well-being, as well as feel the support and understanding of others who are in the same situation as you.
Profile of caregivers
The prototype most frequent of the caregiver is that of one woman middle-aged, married and a direct relative of the patient (mother, daughter, partner…).
They usually have an average level of education, do not receive external assistance and assume almost exclusively the responsibility of supervising the health and taking care of the dependent person.
Specifically, Red Cross points out that the 88.5% of the caregivers are named after woman and the 47.7% are direct relatives of the patient.
In addition, it also reflects that al 63.5% In some cases, non-professional carers also have a working life, so they work and care for someone else at the same time. However, less than half receive financial help for this type of work.
Burned out caregiver syndrome
The high degree of dedication and demand of caregivers can lead to overload and health problems.
“In situations of intensive care for dependent people, a feeling of wear and tear may appear in the caregiver, which leads to relegating their own health to the background,” explains Dr. Maset.
Red Cross indicates that the 62% of caregivers pass more than 6 hours per day performing these tasks, and that seven out of ten have been caring for a dependent person for more than three years.
This has an impact on carers’ free time that affects more than one 82% of the cases, in their family life (70%) and in social relations (70%).
According to Cinfa, if the necessary precautions are not taken, support is sought to share the care and time is devoted to oneself, the caregiver may suffer physical, emotional and social wear and tear, which is what we know as the burnt out caregiver syndrome.
The burnt out caregiver syndrome is characterized by the presence of several symptoms:
- Lack of energy, tiredness and continuous worry, insomnia.
- Loss of appetite and/or weight.
- Headaches or in other parts of the body.
- Palpitations, frequent irritability and mood swings, high levels of stress, anxiety and/or depression, apathy.
- Abuse of alcohol, tobacco or anxiolytics and antidepressants.
- Difficulty concentrating and relaxing.
“In addition, a feeling of guilt can appear if the patient or family member is not taken care of… All this often leads to sadness, hopelessness and a feeling of family and social isolation. You can even lose interest in the workplace and end up losing it”, adds Dr. Julio Maset.
Caring for those who care
For its part, the Red Cross has developed different initiatives to offer support and assistance to caregivers.
the project “Attention to caregivers” forms, informs and offers mutual support groups to people who share a task through workshops, information sessions and meetings.
And the “Multichannel SerCuidadorA”, a tool for the attention of this group of people that has social networks, a website and an app. Offering help guides, infographics and different training resources.