Care for The Caregiver

Caregiving can be incredibly rewarding but can also be quite stressful. Providing care for a loved one is a basic core value we all have in us. 

 

Caregiving can mean many different things:

  • Going to doctors appointments
  • Going to physical therapy appointments
  • Giving medicines and changing dressings 

 

When your loved one is still in the hospital setting, your role as the caregiver will be slightly different than when they are discharged from the hospital. 

While in the hospital, there are trained staff to care for your loved one.  This is the time that you also can prepare yourself by taking very good care of yourself for their inevitable discharge from the hospital. As a former burn unit nurse, I always would recommend to the family members that they get out of the hospital for a while when they still have the opportunity, since their loved one has doctors, nurses and therapists to care for them. It can be very difficult to step out of the hospital and go take a break, but this is the time to do it. 

When you become a caregiver at home, that can be a very big challenge if you are the sole caregiver. Taking time for yourself will only make you a better caregiver. No matter how small, it is imperative that you try to do one thing for yourself every day. You are equally as important as your loved one. You would not neglect them, so don’t neglect yourself.

 

Caregiving can provoke many different feelings. It is important to know the feelings are completely normal. Like your loved one, you may be experiencing feelings of frustration, grief, anger, sadness, guilt and loneliness. There are no right or wrong feelings when you are a caregiver. At times, you may also be helping your loved one adapt to emotional feelings or feelings of frustration, and this also can impact you.

It is easy to believe that your needs are not important when you are in the role of a caregiver, but it is important to remember to focus on your own needs and desires. You, and you alone, are responsible for taking care of yourself during this very challenging time. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to provide care for your loved one. 

 

There are multiple ways to provide self-care to yourself, such as yoga, hiking, meditation, or just taking a walk. Some things to remember are:

  1. Make sure you get proper rest and nutrition.
  2. Attend to your own healthcare needs.
  3. Exercise regularly if at all possible even a walk around the block.
  4. Learn and use some stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness or prayer.
  5. Reaching out for help when you feel you need it. 

Remember that you can also ask for help and ask questions that may help you fulfill your role as a caregiver. Roles can definitely change when you are put in a caregiver position. Your role in someone’s life before a burn injury may look completely different as you support them on this journey. 

 

During this time, you can encounter feelings of being completely overwhelmed and stressed. In this role, you may need to seek out friends or even a therapist/counselor or your spiritual advisor. This does not mean you have failed. It simply means you are taking care of yourself. In this new role as a caregiver, you may experience feelings that you didn’t expect.

Sometimes caregivers can begin to feel completely alone in their role and that can be very overwhelming. Open communication with your loved one is so important. Feelings of frustration and anger can be quite normal for both you and your loved one. You are both adapting to something new. Sharing how you are coping can be very beneficial in this trying time. Identifying things that are stressors for each of you might make those easier to deal with. 

 

All life changing events give us the opportunity for growth. There are many changes that occur with a burn injury and these don’t need to be necessarily viewed as negative changes. It is important to remember that you will each be on a journey in your own way and will progress in your own time.

This without a doubt can be one of the most challenging times of your life so it is imperative that you not only take care of your loved one but also yourself. You will both be the better for it if you do. 

 

Written by: Cindy Rutter, BSN, MFTI

Originally published in Burn Support Magazine 2018 Summer Edition