Caregiving is a huge responsibility. Caregivers are of two kinds: informal caregivers, which refers to the one family member or relative ensuring care to another, and professional caregivers, including health workers and volunteers of various organizations. While the overall strain on caregivers has always existed, it seemed to have touched its peak during the Covid-19 pandemic. This strain has been noted to have multiple forms, a few of which have been noted as follows:
1. Increased anxiety
Anxiety levels have probably never been as high as before, across the globe, as they have been during this pandemic. But it quite obviously had a heavy impact on caregivers; for example, in a household or organization where the caregivers need to care for the elderly or sick. If there is an elderly or sick person in the family and, the caregivers tend to be overburdened and unable to balance work life and family life without any house help- all of which has led to an increase in anxiety. Every second chore was an added responsibility. In a hospital setting as well, the constant rush of patients and no time for a breather amidst a global pandemic caused higher anxiety in health caregivers.
The extreme uncertainty of the pandemic has caused increased concern everywhere, not sparing caregivers. Having to carry out a routine-based task system- over an extended period- has caused most of them, both family and professionals, to face burnout. The first stage of burnout consists of hope, and the 2nd stage feels mentally draining, causing stress. By the 3rd, the line between caregiving and leading your own life gets blurrier by the day; and by the 4th stage, giving up feels like a viable option. Finally, by the 5th stage, every task seemed exhausting and caused chronic distress, leading to caregivers having to face a sense of hopelessness.
Family caregivers may face milder forms of depression in Covid-19 due to constant pressure to make it through the day with no mishaps. But other caregivers, especially those placed in hospitals or NGOs providing for Covid-19 patients, were at higher risk of depression as they faced the realities of the pandemic for days in the end. Increased deaths made these professional caregivers feel like they have failed at their task, and such thoughts can trigger severe depression.
The emotional burden of the pandemic has resulted in obvious frustrations experienced by caregivers, due to increasing uncertainty about the vaccine or a possible solution to end a global pandemic. Frustration exists to an extent where the simplest of the task seems to be a burden. Such frustration can cause an imbalance in work, lack of attention, unsuccessful completion; thus, deteriorating both the physical and mental health of the caregiver.
5. Loss of self-identity
Working in a setting where you are focused on someone else’s needs and constantly tending to them will put you in a cycle of carrying out tasks where you may end up losing sight of who you are. Covid-19 only backed up this effect, as uncertainty was a grave drawback. Caregivers who tend to patients and family members tend to put the recipient’s needs before their own. Keeping Covid-19 in hindsight, several caregivers lost a sense of who they are or what they wanted as the pandemic broke out.
6. Physical strain in performing daily activities
When anxiety, depression, and various mental health disorders are underway, they can disable anyone from performing daily tasks. Caregivers- who are looking out not only for their well-being but the well-being of others as well- face physical strain to perform daily activities. Once again, as these caregivers put the recipient’s needs above their own, they feel unable to perform tasks that they benefit from, such as a simple bath or cooking a meal for themselves. Everything they do seems robotic to them.
How to Cope
Of course, covid-19 is tough on most of our mental health, but most caregivers have not had a chance to get a break for themselves in such dire situations. As fellow people living through this pandemic, we do not need to do much. If you know someone working in health care, having a hearty conversation with them could significantly lighten up their day. Monetary help can also go a long way, so do look up reliable sources for organizations that provide monetary aid. All in all, it is vital to remember that the pandemic has been harsh on the mental health of most people in various industries, and helping out each other is the only way to get through it.
Article By: Dr Rachna Khanna Singh