Hesperian Health Guides
Caregivers need help too
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Understand your feelings
Caregivers stay busy trying to make things better for the person with the disability. They often focus on how that person is feeling. But, if you are a caregiver, it is also important to take time to notice your own feelings. Even if you are glad to assist a woman with a disability, you will sometimes get tired, experience stress, or feel frustrated or upset. As a caregiver, you may work in many different ways—as a nurse, a counselor, a driver, a cook, an accountant, and a housekeeper—all at the same time. If you look after a person who is very ill or depressed, you may experience more stress.
It is natural for family members and others who assist women with disabilities to feel ashamed or guilty for being frustrated, tired, angry, or upset. Even a person who cares for a close relative or a spouse can experience uncomfortable feelings and strong emotions. Do not feel guilty or ashamed for wanting to get away sometimes.
If you can notice and think about what makes you feel angry, frustrated, or helpless, then you can try to find a way to change the underlying causes of your feelings.
Understanding your feelings can move you to actions that make both your life and the life of the woman with disabilities better.
Feeling angry may give you energy to help organize a group of caregivers and others to persuade the government to make it easier for women with disabilities to get good health care, transport, and access to public buildings.
Feeling frustrated, helpless, or lonely may help you reach out to other people in your community who live with women who have disabilities, or who are themselves disabled. They may be able to help you.
Healthy ways to talk about feelings
When people who spend a lot of time together do not talk about how each other feels, they can become frustrated and angry with each other. Even if talking cannot find a way to change the underlying reasons for your feelings, it can help both of you to change how you act on them.
People show their feelings in different ways. There are healthy ways of expressing feelings and unhealthy ways. For example:
You're an ungrateful woman! I don't know why I bother to try to help you.
This is a dangerous and unhealthy way to talk about feelings.
When you tell me all the things I'm doing wrong, and never talk about anything I'm doing right, I get angry because you don't seem to appreciate my help.
This is a safe and healthy way to talk about feelings.
A mother in Nigeria tells how she cares for her disabled daughter
My daughter is a polio survivor. When she was a young girl, we could not afford to buy a wheelchair or to employ anyone to help us. So I used to carry her on my back to school every day, even up to the 12th grade. It was hard for me and I would get very tired as she got bigger and heavier. When she got to university she also got a wheelchair, and now she even has her own car. So I can rest more compared to what it was like a few years ago.
But now she needs emotional help because she becomes erratic in her behavior sometimes. I understand that this has to do with what she is going through, so I try to help her. But if I could afford to employ someone to help her become more emotionally stable, then I would be able to look after myself better and not be so exhausted all the time.