In the shadows of daily life, around 11 million people in France regularly provide help to loved ones in a dependent situation on a non-professional basis. However, this figure could be largely underestimated, largely because caregivers do not spontaneously identify with this term, often defining their contribution as something “natural” or “usual”. However, their commitment, whether within family or friends, represents a heavy daily burden. In this context, how can we preserve our own health as a caregiver and ensure we do not forget ourselves?
The main caregiver, a true pillar of the dependent person
The caregiver is defined as a non-professional person who offers primary, partial or total assistance to a person close to them in a dependent situation. She thus accompanies him continuously or occasionally in the activities of daily life: help in carrying out acts of daily life, providing care, educational and social support, administrative management, coordination of medical appointments, psychological support , constant vigilance, domestic tasks… We generally imagine a caregiver as being a member of the family. However, it could be any person around you: friend, neighbor, etc.
These caregivers play a crucial role in keeping dependent people at home . However, this situation is not without consequences. Indeed, despite their importance, they are exposed to risks of physical and psychological exhaustion, financial challenges, social isolation, as well as a lack of recognition within the family and society. Integration difficulties or academic failure can also be added, particularly among young caregivers.
Dealing with psychological difficulties
The illness or dependency of a loved one is also a challenge for the caregiver. Being a caregiver generates a considerable emotional and psychological burden , which is often underestimated. However, the figures are revealing: almost one in two caregivers notices a negative impact on their social or family life (45%) and on their health (53%). The daily difficulties that caregivers encounter cause a state of real exhaustion and overwork in more than six cases out of ten (62%). Three-quarters of caregivers also feel a need for respite to breathe (74%), thus revealing the weight of this daily burden.
It is also not uncommon for a caregiver to suffer from chronic stress (manifested by anxiety or even depression), sleep problems or even discouragement. Feelings of helplessness, anger, guilt or loneliness are all elements that can arise.
Take care of yourself to take care of others
People dedicated to caring for a loved one must recognize the importance of their mental and physical well-being to be able to offer optimal support. Unfortunately, the tendency to neglect one's own needs is common among caregivers, who often find themselves overwhelmed by guilt whenever they take time for themselves. However, it is essential to understand that maintaining good mental and physical health is not an act of selfishness, but rather a necessity.
To successfully cope with everyday stress and pressure, natural solutions exist. Mediation, physical exercise or even moments of relaxation are all strategies that can be implemented to take care of yourself. Natural herbal treatments can also help combat stress and anxiety.
If necessary, consulting a healthcare professional can be a valuable resource. Firstly, contacting your general practitioner can be a good solution to take stock of your situation and put in place appropriate care.
Coping with social isolation
Social isolation is another common consequence of the caregiving role. Lack of time, exclusive dedication to this role or even the difficulty of leaving your loved one alone can in fact lead to a progressive loss of contact with the outside world.
To combat this situation, there are different places throughout France offering support and support to caregivers. Whether it is physical meetings between caregivers, websites dedicated to caregivers or telephone platforms, each allows for information and discussion. Participating in these initiatives offers the opportunity to interact with other caregivers and find support: not being left alone in the face of your doubts and questions, finding practical answers to your problems or sharing common experiences. Since these systems are not yet widespread, it is recommended to obtain information from local organizations in your region or department.
Coping with physical fatigue
Caring for a dependent loved one's daily life frequently causes fatigue, both psychologically and physically. From back pain to palpitations, digestive disorders, chronic fatigue and weight variations, the physical consequences are numerous.
Time to relieve caregivers
A solution to relieve caregivers was established by the law of December 28, 2015 on the adaptation of society to aging, introducing the right to respite for caregivers. This right allows them to request temporary support for their loved one . Here are the main existing forms of respite:
- Reception of the dependent person in temporary accommodation or day care in a structure adapted to their needs: medical-social establishment, medical-educational institute, specialized reception home, EHPAD, etc.
- Accommodation with a host family or in a respite home: for a more or less long period, part-time or full-time depending on needs.
- Holidays or respite stays , offering programs adapted to the reception and care of people in a dependent situation.
Respite can also take place at home thanks to the intervention of professionals , or services such as meal delivery. Professionals such as home helpers or nurses can support people in carrying out everyday activities.
Primary caregivers sometimes have difficulty accepting this respite: feeling of guilt, feeling of abandonment, etc. However, these various solutions have many benefits for caregivers and for the people being cared for since they allow caregivers to be able to take care of themselves. and health while offering the person being helped adapted activities as well as new social connections.
Train to save money
The Montchamp law of 2005 on equal rights and opportunities recognizes the right of caregivers to benefit from specific training. Delivered by healthcare professionals, these training courses aim to make everyday life easier for caregivers while preserving their own health as well as that of the person they are assisting. By training, caregivers have the opportunity to acquire specialized skills in the areas of care and assistance, which results in an improvement in the efficiency and quality of services provided to their dependent loved one.
Various organizations offer training for caregivers, covering a wide range of knowledge. These training courses can, for example, focus on everyday actions, including specific techniques to facilitate daily activities.
Take care of your physical health
Taking care of your physical health remains an imperative for caregivers, despite the hectic pace and the constraints imposed by the situation. It is common for caregivers, engaged in their supportive role, to neglect their own health needs. It is essential to recognize that, just like the dependent person they support, caregivers also need to benefit from regular medical consultations and necessary examinations to monitor their state of health. This vigilance is of crucial importance, especially since the caregiver themselves may be faced with aging or health problems, thus making them also vulnerable. Taking the time to look after your own health therefore becomes a priority not only to ensure continuous and optimal support for the dependent person, but also to guarantee the sustainability and well-being of the caregiver in their crucial role.
Vidal. (April 6, 2023). Caregiver syndrome: the signs that should alert you.
For the elderly.gouv.fr. Get informed and exchange.
My journey handicap.gouv.fr. (January 22, 2023). Respite solutions for caregivers.