Mental Health Day: Pandemic drives uptick in caregiver fatigue

caregiver
Almost every caregiver goes through feeling of exhaustion, drowsiness, debility, etc. Image courtesy: Neil Bussey / Shutterstock
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New Delhi: Zig Ziglar said, a healthy mind breeds a healthy body and visa versa. While talking about sound mental well-being, one must think about caregivers who find themselves even more exhausted due to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caregiver fatigue is very common. Almost every caregiver goes through this feeling of exhaustion, drowsiness, debility etc, says Dr Mantosh Kumar, Sr Consultant Psychiatrist, Sukoon Hospital (clinically governed by Fortis Healthcare).

"Being a caregiver for someone you know and love, can be both rewarding and frustrating at the same time. This can drain a person physically, mentally and emotionally. Fatigue usually occurs when this stress and burden starts affecting the caregiver's life and health. They might have felt alone, unsupported or unappreciated. Eventually, they can lose interest in caring for themselves and the person they look after," says Dr Mantosh, who has worked in Department of Psychiatry at IHBAS (New Delhi) and as a Consultant in VIMHANS (New Delhi).

The physical symptoms are headache, insomnia, body ache, and change in body weight, among others, whereas the mental symptoms can be figured out from the behavioural changes i.e. anxiety, hopelessness, impatience, self isolation etc. Most prominent factor for a caregiver fatigue is neglecting the caregiving duties.

The world is experiencing a 'unifying trauma' of loss and uncertainty, and mental health workers, therapists and caregivers aren't exempt, says the expert. As per a recent survey, the therapists' mental and emotional investment into their work has registered an uptick, and most therapists are experiencing caregiver fatigue as a result of the current COVID-19 situation, lockdown pressures and doing only/mostly tele-psychiatry.

"We have all felt the devastating effects of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic) on our families and communities. It is unequivocal that this pandemic has led to a near total disruption of our social fabric. Under these circumstances, one can imagine the psychological toll which is very significant," he said.

For some people, speaking to a therapist is the most effective way of understanding their own feelings, experiences and surroundings. However, in a situation like the ongoing pandemic, even therapists or caregivers themselves are going through the same situation.

Counselling their clients on trauma, they are experiencing the same feeling themselves. This fatigue is making them feel over worked as their demand has increased, explains the Sukoon Healthcare expert.

"The pandemic has shaken the economy of the world. Financial situation is creating affecting people badly, who want to see a therapist to understand their own thought process and the situation. Nobody was prepared and nor is anyone immune to such disruption, like the one that has been caused by the pandemic. Therapists and counsellors are facing the same anxiety, uncertainty and financial stress that is troubling those who seek their services."

With some have lost jobs, are getting low or minimum salaries, some are stuck in a place far away from home struggling to meet the basic necessities of their own lives; survival is getting difficult and more complicated. With the growing number of people getting affected and dying, therapists are troubled to maintain the professional boundaries. Thus, leaving them with fatigue and feeling over worked.

"For a patient or client, it might be the first time they're really voicing and vocalising this stuff, it's one of seven or eight times a therapist is hearing this during the day. Dealing with same kinds of questions, queries or uncertainties 'n' number of times in a day can also exhaust and trouble. Plus, their own internal monologue of how they're doing themselves is bound to have the caretaker worried themselves."

There is an urge to let the worries and personal anxieties take a back seat on days punctuated by appointments for them. Therapists and caregivers can't be both, a stressed human and a good therapist at one go, and they need to pick and choose, opines Dr Mantosh.

The financial concerns are just one part of a constantly turning wheel of what therapists and counsellors are working with as they try to maintain the same standard of care while adapting to a new normal. It has been a significant challenge to navigate self-care while helping others.

Therapists are experiencing the same levels of helplessness, the same feelings of anxiety and doubt and fear, and on top of that are making space to take care of other people's concerns. And so it's a tough job, too. Working through the anxieties and fears of other people means mental health professionals are consistently being exposed to the collective trauma of the pandemic.

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