Family members who care for parents deserve respect. But when carers also have to juggle a job, children and looking after their own home, caring commitments can soon become overwhelming. There is no point in exhausting yourself and endangering your own health: that's not helping anyone. Make sure you take time off. If you need to, take up offers of support from other family members or contact a care provider.
Do you care for your mum and find it a massive strain? You're not alone: around 220,000 people look after family members in Switzerland, making them the country's biggest care organisation. Around two thirds of people needing care in Switzerland are looked after by family members – on a rising trend.
People are getting older
The share of the population in the third stage of their lives is constantly increasing. At the same time, families are getting smaller. Younger family members are faced with increasing numbers of relatives belonging to older generations. In addition, there has been a shift in values in Switzerland. Women now place a higher priority on professional advancement and are not always willing to give up work for the family. This means they are often faced with a multiple burden of work, their immediate family and looking after relatives. Men are also increasingly involved in providing support to relatives. They too are having to come to terms with the conflicting demands of family and work.
People look after family members for various reasons: they provide care out of love or a feeling of duty. Money is frequently a reason too. The voluntary work done by family members saves on the cost of professional nursing staff. So in some circumstances the relative does not face the threat of having to sell their house. Fact is, external care costs money and a place in a home can also cost a pretty penny.
The more care a relative needs, the greater the cost of care for their loved ones. Often it's the daughter who provides the care and to a lesser extent the son or husband/wife. Many work and have children themselves. This triple burden sooner or later leads to health problems for some people. This is also shown by the statistics: family carers visit the doctor more frequently and consume more medications than the average person. Scientists therefore describe them as "hidden patients".
Take care of yourself
Health care is not just about providing practical help. Caring for relatives can have an impact on your work, social life as well as physical and mental health. The relationship between the person providing the care and the person receiving the care should never be underestimated, and can have both positive and negative aspects depending on your personal biographies. Not everyone responds in the same way to a new role caring for a relative.
Find out what your limits are and make sure you get some time to unwind every now and again. Think about your own needs for leisure activities or social contact, for example, as well as your professional ambitions. Caring for your sick mother or father until you reach the stage of exhaustion does no-one any good. Talk openly about your situation and exchange views, for example as part of a self-help group. If you work, talk to your employer and ask whether you can temporarily reduce your working hours or take unpaid holiday, for example.
Take up any offers of help
Find out if anyone can provide help and organise outside support as soon as possible. You can ask friends and neighbours to help out with smaller things and divide tasks between family members. Find out what is available from Spitex, Pro Senectute and similar organisations. "Seniors-for-seniors" clubs also provide supportive services.
Do you find caring too much of a burden, or are you not yet confident in your role? Specific courses and professional services and counselling are available to help you. Take advantage of this – for the sake of your health and your family.
Credit in return for the private care you give
If you care for a relative in the same household you may be entitled to a care credit in some circumstances. This means you will in future receive a higher pension in return for the care you have given. Find out about the terms and conditions from your AHV office.
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