The Netherlands is becoming older. This is mostly because of the increase in life expectancy of the recent years and the decrease of 50% in the number of children born in a family since the sixties and seventies. With the increase in the number of senior citizens, the demand for care increases and so does the number of informal carers. This is seldom easy for the informal carer, as they will be subjected to extra burdens in addition to the burdens that their own life offers. What do you, as a carer, have to take care of in order to not become overwhelmed with responsibility?
The (negative) effects of informal care on the informal carer correlate with the amount of time spent on it. Especially for informal carers who offer a lot of physical support (compared to more emotional or functional support) the effects are clearly visible. These effects can vary from mental health complaints to chronic illness. For example, the extra stress caused by informal care may lead to appetite loss, sleep complaints, a feeling of tension, headache, gloominess or general fatigue. When this stress is combined with reduced recovery possibilities and/or existing stress due to work, private conflicts, etc., this can eventually even result in a burnout. This is an exhaustion reaction of the body, often requiring long-term recovery.
The best way to prevent stress is to stay alert to its signals. These signals occur when there is more demand than can be given: an imbalance between capacity and workload. There are indeed ways to increase capacity. A healthy body – healthy, varied food, physical activity and sufficient sleep – helps your body cope with stress better. Additionally, recovery options can be considered. For example, try to plan moments for relaxation. Social support also helps against stress. Talk to friends or colleagues about what you’re dealing with. This way you will see that you are not alone. You give care, but you can also get some care yourself.