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Caring for someone you love can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Whether that means taking care of a child with special needs, looking after ageing parents, or helping an unwell spouse, your role is as vital as it is challenging. These days, many of us in Singapore are in the so-called sandwich generation, where we are caring for both young kids and older parents. Burning the candle at both ends like this leaves little time for self-care and leads to prolonged caregiver stress.
Whether you are just beginning to question if you have signs of caregiver fatigue or you have reached the point of complete caregiver burnout, you are not alone.
Let’s look at how to deal with caregiver stress and some of the incredible resources that offer support for caregivers in Singapore.
Caregivers are often nervous to leave their loved one in someone else’s hands. You might be worried that they may forget a medication routine or cook a meal that isn’t part of the diet plan. It is important to keep in mind, however, that if you exhaust yourself, you might make the same mistakes. To be at your best, take a break.
Look to paid healthcare workers and nursing services. There are a range of adult care programs, drop-in centres, and short-term care homes that make your life much easier. In Singapore, around 60% of caregivers are employed outside of their caregiving responsibilities. Keep in mind that your job is important too, and look to options that will help you during the workday.
As Singaporeans live longer, we are facing some of the complexities of an ageing population. To help families take on these new responsibilities, the Ministries of Health are expanding their offerings for older people and caregivers. There are a range of financial and legal support possibilities and training options for caregiving. Visit the Agency for Integrated (AIC) Singapore website for a complete overview of what is available.
We often use the term caregiver, or simply carer, very generally. But, what is it exactly? By definition, a caregiver is anyone who provides care to another person in need. This person might be a child, an ageing parent, a spouse, or other members of the family. In some cases, the person needing care could be a friend or a neighbour.
In the case of a professional caretaker, the person in need could be anyone whose family has sought outside help. As a professional carer, you might live in the person’s home or visit on a set schedule. You may also work in a nursing home or other care facility. While professional caregivers are in a slightly different situation than those caring for family members, they are every bit as susceptible to caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue.
Caregivers help those who struggle with various aspects of daily life. Their difficulty may be due to a young age or advanced age. The need for care might be a result of dementia, disability, or disease.
In many cases, a carer is responsible for managing every aspect of a person’s daily life. This might include helping with everyday chores, bathing, eating, and managing medication. At a higher level, the level of responsibility can also extend to making health and financial decisions.
The Ministry of Health in Singapore defines a caregiver as anywho who assists an ill or disabled person who needs assistance with day-to-day activities.
As Singapore is dealing with an ageing population, the number of caregivers is growing and it’s becoming a hot topic across the country. There is an increasing number of people over the age of 65 who need aid and ongoing care. This issue is likely to escalate as our population gets older.
In 2010, the Ministry of Health started to collect data on caregivers in Singapore. In the National Health Survey 2010, they found that there are more than 210,000 caregivers in Singapore. That means that 8.1 per cent of Singaporeans between the ages of 18 and 69 are taking on the responsibility of a caregiver. These hard-working carers have accepted the physical and financial burdens of another person. Not only are more than eight per cent of us managing daily care but 37 per cent of caregivers have been coping with the responsibility for more than a decade. Amongst these caregivers, one in 25 of them are elderly themselves.
Looking at Singapore careers, we’ve found that they are slightly more likely to be female (with 45.7 per cent male caregivers and 54.3 per cent female caregivers) and are generally married (with 68.8 of carers stating they are currently married).
As rewarding as caregiving can be, carers consistently report considerably higher levels of stress than people who are not caring for another. In many cases, caregivers are constantly “on-call.” They need to be ready for an emergency at a moment’s notice and even simple things like a nighttime trip to the bathroom can cause schedule distributions that add up. Dealing with the needs of an ageing, ill or disabled family member is overwhelming and leaves little time for caregivers to care for their own needs, say nothing of relaxing which can quickly lead to caregiver burnout and fatigue.
While the role of a caregiver is extraordinarily meaningful and valuable, it takes its toll. Even in the closest of relationships, every person needs their own space occasionally to maintain their mental health. On top of having that crucial downtown, caregivers always have to account for the time it takes to juggle the other responsibilities of life.
When you are taking care of someone else, it is easy to lose yourself. You become so focused on the person you are caring for, that your health and well-being take a backseat. It is a natural but dangerous response to the stress of caregiving. While you might not actively notice the impact of carer stress, it adds up.
Caregiver stress and burnout can show itself in many ways. You might find yourself feeling frustrated one minute and angry the next. There will be days when you feel helpless and days when you feel completely fulfilled. You may find yourself lost in a sea of details and then feel guilty for making a mistake with medication, for example. As the stress takes its toll, you might find yourself reaching for a drink at the end of every day. Everyone responds differently and, while your response is completely normal, it is important to manage your health and well-being properly.
While burnout shows itself differently in different people, there are a few common caregiver stress symptoms, including the following:
If you are dealing with any of these symptoms, reach out. Talk to a friend or family member. Find ways to get support like caregiver support therapy sessions. Not sure how to get started? We are always here to help. Call +65 6235 8781 or message Whatsapp at +65 8028 4572 to connect with a professional who understands your situation.
Anyone and everyone can get caregiver stress. There tends to be a lot of guilt surrounding the issue and we often try to hide the fact that caregiving doesn’t feel rewarding 24 hours a day. It’s easy to dismiss the feelings and say that it’s just part of the normal responsibilities of being a parent or child, but everyone can get overwhelmed. Each case is different and, between the countless responsibilities of modern life, carer stress is genuine and can affect anyone.
When it comes to those who are most likely to suffer from caregiver burnout, we find that female caregivers report higher stress levels and often suffer from more health problems (though it may also be the case that women are more likely to seek help).
Caregivers looking after a loved one who needs constant supervision and care are more likely to deal with carer stress. Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, in particular, creates a great deal of strain on carers. Similarly, any condition requiring constant care is more likely to lead to depression and other health conditions in caregivers.
Regardless of the condition, caring for a spouse is a particular challenge. Women who care for their spouses have double the rate of heart disease and suffer high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol at much higher rates than those who care for their parents or children.
Absolutely everyone responsible for another person is susceptible to caregiver stress and can become vulnerable to the health consequences of this demanding job. However, while everyone is at risk of stress, some factors make certain people statistically more likely to be affected. Here are a few of the key risk factors:
Stress is easy to ignore. We often dismiss it as a normal part of modern life and, indeed, a bit of stress can be good for you. Minor stress can build resilience and keep you motivated. Chronic, long-term stress, on the other hand, can cause major health problems.
Stress is an all-too-common phenomenon amongst caregivers and can rear its ugly head in countless ways. By not managing stress, you put yourself at risk for a wide range of issues, including:
In addition to the clear health impacts of caregiving, there is a range of issues that you may notice in your daily life. On top of the high levels of stress, you might notice that you have trouble focusing and have issues with your short-term memory.
Caregiving is both emotionally and physically demanding. It is a difficult job for even the most dedicated and resilient person. It is crucial to look after yourself if you want to be fit and ready to look after someone else. If you’re sick and stressed, you can’t care for another person properly. While putting yourself in second place might seem like the right thing to do, it will only backfire in the end.
There are countless resources and tools available both on a nationwide and local level. On top of the support from local community resources, it is important to reach out to your friends and family while also looking for professional support to help you learn to cope.
Even the most resilient person can be overwhelmed by the emotional and physical demands of caring. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you care for your loved one. Remember, if you can’t care for yourself, you can’t care for anyone else.
How do you manage caregiver stress? Here are a few ways to get started.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As a caregiver, it is crucial to always be at your best and be able to properly take care of your loved one. You being at your best is fundamental to preventing burnout and managing your stress.
Here are a few ways to prevent caregiver stress:
Once you have taken advantage of all of the local programmes, it is time for you. Our healthcare professionals can offer you the resources that you need to manage your stress better and learn techniques to cope with caregiver stress that you can use for a lifetime. Ready to get back to your best self? Email us or chat with us on WhatsApp to get started on your journey.
Our team of professional counsellors and psychologists in Singapore specialise in various fields such as anxiety counselling services, depression counselling sessions and trauma counselling. You can also find personalised men’s counselling and special needs counselling.
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