By Aisha Mahmud Yusuf
In August 2020, when my father was admitted to the hospital, my friend, who was doing her youth service (NYSC) at the same hospital, visited him. She later came when I was with him and told me something no one else had. She said, “I know exactly how you feel, and it’s okay to have all those emotions.” She understood that because her father had also been sick for years.
A few years later, some of my friends whose parents became sick would ask me, “Is that how you feel?” I would tell them it would get better with time and pray for the sick to get better. It made me realize that we don’t talk about it because without experiencing it, one doesn’t know how it feels to have a sick loved one and take care of them.
Often, when someone is sick, what people see is the financial burden on the family members. But there is much more that they don’t see. The stress, anxiety, fear, and sometimes even guilt that the family members, especially the caregivers, go through is rarely acknowledged. Unfortunately, sometimes people even add to all these with their judgements and (sometimes accusations) unsolicited suggestions and advice on how to care for the patient.
People expect one to be a caregiver without showing emotions, to be on one’s feet 24/7 without a break, forgetting that we are humans too and there is a limit to what we can endure.
In a society where mental health is still not a priority, you as a caregiver should take time to process your emotions and, if possible, take a break to avoid burnout. You cannot give from an empty cup. If it becomes overwhelming, find someone to listen and talk to them.
When next you visit a sick person, check their caregivers too, share a few kind words, and appreciate them. That will go a long way for them. Also, if a caregiver opens up to you, listen with empathy even if you don’t understand because you are not in their shoes and ask if you can help in any way.
Aisha Mahmud Yusuf wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org.