The caregiver deserves some TLC

The sacrifices made by caregivers are often understated or taken for granted 

AS WE get back to our usual routines after the pandemic, it’s important to realise that some of our family and friends still rely on their caregivers for love and hope every day. Even though things are getting back to normal for most people, these individuals are dealing with specific challenges and uncertainties. This shows how much they still need the support and encouragement from those who take care of them. 

The primary groups of the person receiving care referred to are individuals facing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and other critical illnesses. These conditions have significantly restricted their ability to self-care, necessitating assistance from caregivers. Some examples of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and others. 

Caregivers don’t just help with physical things; they also give emotional support, creating a strong foundation of love and hope for their family and friends. The time after the pandemic is a reminder that, for some, getting back to normal life is a bit harder, highlighting how crucial the care and dedication of caregivers are. It shows that both caregivers and those they take care of are strong and resilient, proving that love and hope play a big role in facing life’s challenges. 

In situations where individuals are fortunate, their caregivers may encompass immediate family members such as parents, children and other close relatives. These family members play a crucial role in providing support and assistance to those facing health challenges. 

However, for those lacking these initial support systems, they often have to depend on daily helpers or external caregivers. These individuals may be professionals or hired aides who offer necessary assistance with daily activities, medical care and emotional support. 

The sacrifices made by caregivers, regardless of their relationship to the person receiving care, are often understated or taken for granted. The dedication and selflessness required in caregiving can be immense, involving physical, emotional, and often financial challenges. Recognising and appreciating the efforts of caregivers is crucial, as it highlights the vital role they play in enhancing the well-being of those in need, and it fosters a deeper understanding of the importance of their contributions. 

The daily demands of work and the necessity to support our families often dominate our lives. In this context (when most patients are the parents), a significant observation arises: A dedicated sibling naturally assumes the role of the primary caregiver when the need arises. Acknowledging family dynamics, this caregiving role is not an obligation but is driven by a profound commitment and familial responsibility. 

The dedicated sibling takes on various caregiving responsibilities, extending beyond financial support to encompass emotional, physical and often medical care for ageing parents or family members facing health challenges. 

This situation highlights the delicate balance individuals strike between professional obligations and the essential role of caring for their families, emphasising the often unspoken but crucial contributions of dedicated siblings who willingly take on caregiving responsibilities, driven by a deep sense of familial duty and love. 

While acknowledging and commending the love and sense of responsibility demonstrated by the primary caregiver, it is imperative for the remaining siblings to actively contribute to the caregiving responsibilities. Often, the primary caregiver is required to provide undivided focus, attention, and care to the sick individual, necessitating putting their own career on hold. 

To address this imbalance, the other siblings can play a crucial role by taking turns to attend to the sick family member on a weekly basis. This rotational approach ensures that the caregiving duties are shared, allowing the primary caregiver to have necessary breaks to focus on personal and professional aspects. For example, one sibling might handle caregiving responsibilities on weekdays, while another takes over on weekends, creating a more balanced and sustainable caregiving arrangement for the benefit of both the caregiver and the individual in need of care. 

In a heartwarming example of shared caregiving responsibilities, picture my cousin taking care of their elderly mom, who undergoes dialysis three times a week due to kidney issues. 

My cousin is fortunate to have a live-in maid and a daily nurse to assist her in her caregiving duties, considering she is also a career woman. Despite juggling the demands of her job, a husband and four children — between nine and 15 years old — with numerous schools, curricular and sports activities, she wholeheartedly fulfils the duties of a dutiful daughter by providing dedicated care for her ailing parents. 

This example illustrates not only the challenges that can arise when caring for a parent with a chronic illness but also the resilience and commitment demonstrated by individuals like my cousin. The support from hired help underscores the importance of a comprehensive caregiving network, enabling her to balance the demands of her career and family life while ensuring her parents receive the necessary care and attention. 

In a thoughtful arrangement, her two younger siblings visit her every month, alternating their turns. They strategically organise “time-out” vacations for the elder sister, providing her and her family the opportunity to cherish and enjoy quality time together. 

During these scheduled breaks, the younger siblings stay at the family home, assuming the caregiving responsibilities for their parents. This not only ensures that the elder sister can recharge and connect with her immediate family but also fosters meaningful moments between the younger siblings and their parents. 

These periodic visits contribute to a supportive and collaborative family dynamic, showcasing how shared responsibilities and intentional breaks can strengthen familial bonds and provide essential support for the primary caregiver. 

From my point of view, this shows how important it is to have a good relationship between the person being taken care of and the caregiver, and to keep close ties in the family. Even though we really want to help our sick parents, it’s super important to take care of our own mental and physical health first. It’s like the saying, you can’t help others if you’re not okay yourself — taking care of ourselves helps us take better care of others. 

Realising the need to take care of ourselves doesn’t mean we’re not strong; it just shows we know when to set limits. Being open to getting help when we need it is a sign that we’re aware and have a good way of balancing our caregiving duties. It’s about knowing when to say no, making sure we’re okay while still being there for our loved ones. 

  • Intan Baha is the chief sub-editor/production editor of The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition

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