When family caregivers suffer from overload: what to do & tips

Ein junger Angehöriger hilft einem älteren Herrn zuhause und giesst ihm eine Tasse Tee ein.

Providing care to family members involves an incredible amount of work. Without it, many of those on the receiving end would be unable to remain at home. It’s therefore understandable that family caregivers can find it all too much. We provide helpful tips for caregivers and show how you can protect yourself from overload and burnout.

Providing care to family members

According to the Federal Office of Public Health, around 600,000 people in Switzerland provided unpaid care and nursing for loved ones in 2018. This work performed by family caregivers is incredibly valuable. However, taking sole responsibility for the care of a family member can be very challenging, both physically and emotionally.

Building a support network

To avoid overload, it’s therefore essential to have important issues cleared as early as possible and to find out about possible support organisations right from the start. A support network provides enormous relief.

Involve your environment or seek professional assistance

Who can help with what? These can be people from your personal environment, but you can also turn to professional services and organisations. The important thing is that responsibilities are allocated on a binding basis. If several people are involved, good communication is essential. Everyone should be aware of their role.

Obtain information from your municipality

What services are available in your municipality? Is there a counselling centre for older persons? Are there any activities, organised lunches or visiting services? Where is the nursing home?

Find out about supplementary services

For example, Spitex, retirement apartments with/without care services, meal services, emergency call services, transportation services.

Self-help groups for family caregivers

These groups show that you don't have to manage the situation alone and you can learn from the experiences of others.

Psychological counselling can help

AEven if everything is sufficiently well organised and care services are in place, family caregivers can suffer overload or burnout. Especially if they're faced with multiple demands from work, family, hobbies and other commitments. Symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, nausea, stomach and digestion problems, headaches, tension, fear of the future, stressful feelings and thoughts, anger or sadness can occur. In situations like this, psychological counselling is advisable.

Coaching for family caregivers

The online programme “Familiencoach Pflege” (family coach for caregivers) offered by the AOK health insurance company is dedicated to the mental well-being of family caregivers.

  • It’s designed to help you deal with difficult caregiving situations, such as nursing a patient with dementia or someone facing imminent death.
  • It supports your efforts in maintaining personal contacts - with other family members, friends and neighbours.
  • It helps you deal better with difficult feelings such as grief, anger, disgust or fear.
  • It encourages you to take good care of yourself and make time for yourself.

Other tips to help relieve family caregivers

  1. Self-care list: what does me good? What do I like doing? Write the answers on a list and do them regularly.
  2. Create windows for yourself: plan small time windows for yourself each day, even if they're only short. Have a coffee in peace, browse through a magazine, go for a walk, etc.
  3. Communication between family members: get together regularly for a form of team meeting. Discuss the situation, define each person's possibilities, accept help, assign tasks clearly and show appreciation for each other.
  4. Talk about it: discuss the situation openly with the people in your environment. Focus on sympathetic and supportive relationships.
  5. Maintain friendships: meet up regularly with friends and acquaintances. If it’s always on the same day of the week, it’s easier to plan and is more binding.
  6. Accept the situation: be aware of the things that you’re unable to change and can't influence. Focus your thoughts on the positive and only put energy into circumstances that you can influence.
  7. Accept negative feelings: once accepted, these can start to fade over time.
  8. Treat yourself with compassion: even if everything doesn't always work out, you did your best.
  9. Question inner beliefs: “I have to be a good member of this family”, “After all, I promised this”, “The others expect this of me” – instead of repeating these demands, ask yourself how you are feeling as a caregiver.
  10. Try to stay positive: try not to lose your sense of humour. See how you can grow in a caregiving role and gain new experiences.

Numerous support organi­sations for family caregivers

There are numerous services for the elderly and their family caregivers.

  • Pro Senectute offers social counselling, including financial support for family caregivers.
  • The Swiss Red Cross also provides everyday relief to caregivers in the form of driving services, visiting and companion services and the supply of medical alert watches.
  • When it comes to dementia, “Alzheimer Schweiz” is a very informative organisation. The website offers a wealth of specialist knowledge and valuable tips on dealing with the condition.
  • On the infosenior.ch website, you’ll find information on a host of events and services, including home-delivered meals and excursions for seniors.
  • Most municipalities have a section for the older population on their websites where events, accommodation options and other helpful information are listed.
Don't miss out

Healthy tips

Get the CSS newsletter by email.

Subscribe now

What would you like to read now?