Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guest Post: How to Stay Positive as a Caregiver

By Stewart Probert

Acting as a care giver for a loved one can be a rewarding role, but, at times, the pressure can sometimes make it very difficult to stay positive. The stress of a long-term illness is very hard on a patient—and can also be a turbulent emotional roller-coaster for a carer. The most common emotions often described by those who are long-term carers are feelings of sorrow, despair, guilt, irritation and fear. These emotions can easily impact the life of the carer, leading to feelings of tension and stress.

These feelings are not unusual! Watching pieces of a loved one that you cherish slip away to illness is one of the most drawn out and painful experiences.  Sadness is common when facing the loss of a person you love or are very fond of.

Many people feel extreme guilt at the irritation they feel, adding to the pressure. Although these emotions can prevent you from feeling positive about your care role, there are many more times that you will feel greatly rewarded. If it is a parent that a carer is looking after, many people cherish the opportunity to show their parents how much they love them.

The type of relationship you, as a carer, share with the person that you’re caring for can impact how positive you feel about the role. For example, it could be a role reversal. Perhaps you are caring for a husband or wife, someone who once cared for you. As a carer, you are probably the closest person to your loved one, which means you experience the ups and downs of their illness. Staying positive is no easy feat.

In order to combat this negativity, examine exactly which negative feelings are making you unhappy. This might sound very vague… try to dig deep down into its roots. It might be quite painful to examine your feelings in this manner. Yet, it really is worth it!

Once you understand what it is that’s making you upset you can seek the necessary help you as a carer need to carry on in your role. Just because you’re a carer now doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have anyone look after you!

The first step in turning this situation around? Share your feelings with someone who will truly listen. Sometimes it helps to just get things out in the open, and could instantly make you feel more relaxed. If you don’t have anyone close to talk to, you could contact one of the many professionals available to help, from nurses to social workers. You could also contact a helpline specifically designed for carers, such as the Dementia Helpline (in the UK), which is available 24/7.

Alternatively, it can be useful to join a support group. Sometimes, a couple of hours a week sharing your experience with others who understand can be of great help. It’s not uncommon as a carer to feel totally isolated and alone, and realizing others are out there, who share your struggles and pain, can be an amazing gift. Medical professionals in the community or helpline staff can recommend how to go about finding relevant groups for you to attend.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Any other person in a caring position has probably experienced exactly the same emotions as you and suffered in the very same ways.

Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved!

Stewart Probert is part of Caring Homes, a UK-based company specializing in award-winning retirement, nursing and dementia care facilities, including the historic Bradbury House in Essex.

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