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Oct 17, 2013

Healthy Living features caretakers; the work they do and the care they need

On October tenth, Belizeans joined in on the celebration of World Mental health Day. This year’s theme focused on Mental Health & Older Adults. And while the aging population certainly faces a number of challenges from memory loss, Alzheimer’s and even depression; the people who take care of their daily needs are also at risk. It is with this in mind that I sought the advice of one psychologist to provide tips on how to care for caretakers.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

There are many reasons why a loved one may need a care giver for many it starts with the effects of aging, for others it may be a physical disability, or even mental illness. For any caregiver, this means assuming many responsibilities outside of taking care of your own. While many will attest to the rewarding experience of caring for a loved one, it can at times be a bit overwhelming.

 

Juliet Simmons, Psychologist, Ministry of Health

Juliet Simmons

“Caring for someone who is mentally ill or physically incapacitated is a major strain on anyone. Caregivers go through psychological distress, physical isolation, financial burden and physical health is affected as well. There are different reasons why some people are in those positions. Either for the love of their loved one or their spouse out of spiritual fulfillment, out of duty out off social pressure and in some rare occasions some people do it out of greed – what they can collect when the person dies. But other than that it may cause some serious conditions on the care giver.”

 

Juliet Simmons is a psychologist who works with the Ministry of Health. She works with families all over the country. She says that very often care givers are so in tuned with the needs of their loved ones that they neglect themselves.

 

Juliet Simmons

“The caregiver may be feeling burdened strained, depression may step in, stress, all of these things are affecting them daily. So it’s important that they learn how to take care of themselves. We talk about social isolation; to stay home- a lot of caretakers cut down their working hours or stop working completely. Spend less time with friends. So, they are just isolated. They are just home with this person. I spoke with one care giver last week, and she says that she spends about three thousand dollars a month on her spouse, that includes having a full time person there with him while she is at work; vacation doctor’s visit and all these things add up.”

 

And if a person is stressed due to the demands of care giving it can also cause implications on their physical health and may even lead to depression.

 

Juliet Simmons

“It is very important because you will get burned out if you don’t take care of yourself. What we recommend for people is to find time for yourself, sit with your family and work out a schedule so that they can help you out, give you some relieve every other weekend so you can do something for yourself. People find different ways to relax individually, take a walk, go sit in the park, go watch a football game; anything to get you away out of the house a little bit is good.”

 

Alzheimer’s patients for example, can be violent at times and are also more prone to wander. This underscores why care takers should take the time to educate themselves on how to provide care. The Belize Red Cross offers training for care givers and the counseling center offers counseling services. But, other family members can help as well.

 

Juliet Simmons

“There is the instrumental one which is helping with the daily care like bathing the person, feeding them. If you can get respite in for that then that’s great. I am sure these people will like that. just being there for them, helping them to get out of the house for a bit. Take thme out for a drive on Sunday afternoon is nice. Let them know that you are there for them; that you understand that it is difficult time for them right now. So you support and it actually helps, reduces rates of depression.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“What is the most important information that care takers should know?”

 

Juliet Simmons

“That they are not alone. That there are a lot of health care providers out here who can offer support.”

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