Self-care for caregivers of special needs

Jul 29, 2020

Caregiving is a demanding task. When it comes to caring for a loved one with special needs, caregivers can face many struggles and challenges. It can also become a full-time responsibility for some caregivers. Some caregivers even gave up their careers in order to provide full-time care for their loved ones with special needs.

Caregiving is stressful and caregivers are prone to suffer from caregiver stress which in the long run can lead to caregiver burnout. And there are stress-relieving strategies that caregivers can adopt to help mitigate the stress impact. Hence, to be able to provide caregiving in the long term, it is important to strike a balance between caregiving and stress relieves.

To strike a balance between caregiving and self-care, it is necessary first to learn to be able to identify signs or symptoms of caregiver stress. Some of the common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress are listed below:

  • Constantly feeling lethargic and exhausted
  • Not getting sufficient sleep or rest
  • Has difficulty sleeping
  • Getting easily irritable
  • Feeling depressed
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy doing

Secondly, caregivers need to be able to find stress-relieving ways to help reduce their caregiving stress. Some useful self-help tips caregivers can consider to help alleviate caregiver stress are listed as follows:

Respite care:

Consider engaging short term care or respite care. By doing so, this will allow caregivers to be able to take short breaks from caregiving. Caregivers can consider engaging respite care service on an ad-hoc basis or for a fixed duration on a weekly basis. By doing so, the caregiver may take time to rest and rejuvenate before resuming their caregiving duties.

Get help from other family member(s):

Engage help from another family member(s) to take over the caregiving duties. Detaching oneself from caregiving duties for a few hours or for a couple of days will help caregivers to recharge and reduce caregiver stress.

Talk it out:

It is important for caregivers to be able to share their feelings, challenges or frustrations with someone else. This can be done with a close friend, co-worker, a neighbor or even with another family member(s) whom they trust. Just by simply talking about their feelings, challenges or frustrations can help release any pent-up feelings.

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Studies have shown that exercise can help lower the stress hormones in the body. Exercise releases endorphins and helps to improve one’s mood. There are several types of exercise that can help to relieve stress such as yoga, walking, running, pilates, aerobics, cycling or even swimming. Caregiver can start out slowly and in short duration before gradually progressing to longer duration and higher intensity exercises embarking on a fixed exercise routine.

It is recommended for caregivers to take time for self-care. Self-care includes indulging in the things that they enjoyed doing, such as grocery shopping, going on a short break, staycation, or even doing some retail therapy.

Additionally, caregivers can also arrange meetups with friends or with other family members. Working on building social connections with others helps to increase a sense of well-being and lowers depression.

Caregivers may try out the above self-help tips. If none of the above is suitable, it is recommended that caregivers seek professional help from a healthcare professional or a therapist.  

Final Comment

Caring for a loved one with special needs requires long term commitment. To prevent stress and caregiving burnout, it is important for caregivers to learn to balance between caregiving and stress-relieving activities so that caregiving can be sustainable.

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