Recently, I have been working with caregivers and their families. Although most caregivers have a family system, it seems to always come down to two members of the system — the person in need of the care (the patient) and the caregiver. It is always difficult for the caregiver to factor in their own needs when their needs conflict with the demands of the patient. The needs of the caregiver are just as important as the needs of the patient. If the caregiver continuously pushes their needs aside, they will become angry and resentful towards the patient, which will certainly affect the quality of care given.
My caregiver guidelines:
• The caregiver’s needs are just as important as the patient’s needs. Self-care is very important for the caregiver. If you are good the patient will be good.
• All difficult decisions only need to include the needs of the caregiver, their immediate family system and the patient. Family members not directly involved in the patients care do not need to be considered in decisions that will have no impact on them. When the needs of the caregiver and the patient are in conflict, the needs of the caregiver must always come first.
• Respite, a short period of rest or relieve from something difficult or unpleasant, will be what you need most and the most difficult to do. Try to understand when seeking respite, this is part of giving good care to the patient and must be taken. Feeling guilty because you are taking a break from your caregiving duties is better than anger and resentment towards the patient, which you will undoubtedly feel if no respite is taken.
• Seek help, from someone outside of your family system. A family therapist, a social worker or a caregiver group will help you find peace during this very difficult journey.