The Caregiver's Common Self-Care Challenges and How To Overcome Them

By: Rosemarie Tamunday Casanova — RN, BSN, MHA

Caregiver Self Challenges cover design
Graphic Artwork by Tom Banogon

The daily care of another individual with specialized needs can drain a caregiver physically, mentally, and emotionally. With the seemingly thousands of tasks to do and decisions to make, it is easy to put self-care on pause and prioritize the urgent needs of a patient instead.

Doing this puts a heavy toll on the caregiver’s well-being and creates possible dangers to the patient too.

Who are Caregivers?

caregiver with an elderly in wheelchair

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center defined caregivers as people who tend to the need of another for short or long periods of time due to sickness, injury, or disability.

There are two types of Caregivers: formal and informal. Formal Caregivers are paid professionals who undergo continuous training and education for providing care. Informal Caregivers, on the other hand, are often unpaid family and friends who give shoulder the responsibility of caring for a family member or loved one.

What do Caregivers do?

The care provided can range from assisting with medical procedures, attending to the personal hygiene of the patient, homemaking, and companionship.

To specify, these are some of the multiple Caregiving roles:

caregiver helping elderly exercise
Photo by Kampus on Pexels

Daily patient care can be very demanding and dedicated caregivers see it as their obligation to provide safety and comfort to their patients, especially to those who are bedridden and rely solely on the Caregiver for their daily needs.

Common Concerns for Caregivers

As patient care is prolonged, without proper rest and recreation the caregiver develops an exhaustion called Caregiver Fatigue. This condition is characterized by an overall feeling of tiredness resulting in a decreased ability to work and having poor performance.

The Caregiver might experience a loss of appetite and interest in hobbies or social interaction, anxiety, depression, increased irritability, irrational anger toward the patient resulting in guilt, poor concentration, and the inability for decision-making, to name a few.

caregiver feeling fatigue
Photo by Shane on Unsplash

The American Psychological Association (APA) also reported a list of common concerns for Caregivers including Secondary Strains such as relationship and financial stress, Care Decisions like end-of-life planning, Resources, Family challenges, and Advocacy for Care.

To list a few of the issues a Caregiver often experiences:

Delaying breaks proves fatally damaging to both Caregiver and the patient. Incidences like wrong medications and dosages given by Caregivers outside of the hospital setting are common occurrences. A burned-out Caregiver can easily make this mistake and possibly put the life of the care recipient at risk.

Self-care Challenges of a Caregiver

What is stopping a Caregiver from doing self-care? It is ironic that someone who provides care to others on a daily basis has a difficult time providing the same amount of care to himself.

Here are 3 main reasons why Caregivers are challenged with giving themselves the attention and care they deserve:

1. Time Management

A study says that 56% of American Caregivers work full-time, putting in 40 hours or more weekly. In the multitude of tasks in those long hours, the lack of proper time management severely affects the succeeding tasks. Planning ahead, prioritizing, and anticipating patient needs and resulting tasks will increase efficiency and give way to a smooth and organized flow. Granted, things don’t always go as planned but preparing a plan B is part of effective time management.

2. Feelings of Guilt

Guilt can be caused by several factors namely the feeling of not doing enough for the patient, anger and irritability at the care recipient, and resentment for the isolation. Taking on this emotional burden prevents most Caregivers from giving themselves the break they need, even hiding and minimizing their issues, and instead taking on more tasks to compensate putting them on the brink of physical, mental and emotional collapse. Acknowledging the guilt and accepting that humans are flawed will pave the way to cope with Caregiver guilt.

3. Lack of Support

With the strain of providing care in an unchanging and controlled environment, social isolation is one of the common concerns of a Caregiver. With limited social contact and support, a Caregiver’s needs become unnoticed and unmet. Knowing your resources and reaching out to a fellow Caregiver or a professional will address this challenge.

Taking care of Caregivers

Taking a much-needed 15-minute break can go a long way. Sticking to the basics and making sure that Caregivers get their primary needs such as eating a healthy and balanced diet, regular exercise, getting enough sleep, or reaching out to friends and support groups already tackle a huge chunk of a Caregiver's concerns.

caregiver showing affection
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels

Giving Caregivers the attention and care that they need not only benefits them but also ensures that their patients are provided with high-quality care. Here are a few recommendations on how to care for Caregivers:

If you are a formal caregiver, CNA or HHA, who is compassionate and committed to caring for others, RIGHT ACCORD Private Duty Home Health Care is interested in hearing from you. Just like how we treat our patients like family, we know how to value and support essential Caregivers like you. Visit our website to learn more about us.

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ROSEMARIE TAMUNDAY-CASANOVA, RN, BSN, MHAExecutive Administrator/Owner, RIGHT ACCORD Private Duty-Home Health Care

Rosemarie is a certified critical care registered nurse, has a degree in Legal Nurse Consulting and a Masters Degree in Health Administration. Rosemarie has extensive background in nursing from acute care, home care, nursing education and health care management and administration. Her longest career was a critical care nurse for Veterans HealthCare Administration. She is an approved Home Health Training Provider for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) by USF Training Academy on Aging.