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Addressing Mental Health for Caregivers

Renee Draper - January 30, 2020 10:24 AM

Caring for seniors requires a lot of patience and love. This is true even if it’s just a member of your family, so what more if it’s a patient you have to take care of for your job?

It’s no secret that caregiving requires a lot of compassion, especially as you’re having to care for people who aren’t necessarily your own kin. While caregiving is just a job at the end of the day, it’s perhaps one of the most emotionally taxing careers available.

Understanding the mental toll of caregiving

One of the most harmful misconceptions when it comes to caregiving is that the job is an easy one. It may not be as physically taxing as a job in construction, for example, but navigating the emotional and mental requirements of caregiving is enough of a job on its own. 
A study published by SSM Population Health shows that even caregivers all the way from Thailand have reported adverse mental health effects from their job. While the study cites low income and other cultural factors, it also cites lack of support from colleagues and the nature of the job itself as huge factors.

Such taxing work is magnified when you consider how in-demand senior care is due to the nation’s increasingly aging population. In fact, 
Maryville University reports that adult gerontology nurses are one of the highest in-demand healthcare roles as a testament to this growing need. In order to provide truly holistic healthcare for seniors, nurses need to partner up with caregivers to ensure that a patient’s physical and mental wellbeing are taken care of. Indeed, caregivers act as middlemen between patients and nurses in order to provide holistic care. This is where the logistics of caregiving comes in, as you’ll also have to organize patients’ medicine intakes, dosages, and the like.

Curbing mental distress

We’ve put caregivers on such a pedestal, expecting them to be supportive and optimistic at all times. This can end up trapping caregivers in a box with no way out, which can further their mental distress.

The Globe and Mail emphasizes that healthcare organizations should make employees’ mental health as a top priority, putting it on the same level as (and not second to) their physical care. This can mean employing a counselor for caregivers to reach out to, allowing them mental health days off, or even having weekly check-ins as a team to support each other. These small steps of support can mean the world to someone who is mentally struggling at their job.

Families of patients can also do their part in alleviating mental distress by simply checking in with caregivers. Engaging them, asking how their day is, and even sending them gifts over Christmas can make caregivers feel like they’re valued and part of the family. This last point is important — as it’s often the caregiver who sees our aging family member on the daily basis, it’s like they’re a part of the family as well.

Our eCare Diary posts on caregiver wellness highlight how it’s important — not selfish — for caregivers to look after themselves, too. After all, this ensures that our loved ones get the best care possible.

Renee Draper was a caregiver for 20 years before transferring careers and shifting focus towards her fellow caregivers. She advocates for the mental health of health professionals everywhere, and always has a mug of coffee in hand.

 

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