Being a caregiver during vet school

Introduction

Vet school often comes at a time when parents are aging and having health issues. Some students enter vet school as caregivers. The demands of a veterinary curriculum make this dual role very challenging.

Signs That You are Overextended

  • Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Irritability
How can a busy vet student maintain their own wellness while in vet school and taking care of others?

Strategies

  • Find ways to take care of yourself.  Delegate and/or share the responsibilities.
    • Ask for support for childcare from family or friends. Anticipate when you might need additional help (before exams) and schedule this help well in advance so family members can plan as well.
    • Hire caregivers.
    • Find and use support groups.
  • Consider taking a leave of absence.
  • Take a break from both caregiving and vet school on a regular basis.
  • Get support for your mental wellbeing.

People to Talk to About Being a Caregiver in Vet school

Final thoughts

Your loved ones may have limited time with you. Take the time you need. Vet school will still be here when you are ready.

Suggested Reading FoR Dealing with Death

  • The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life by Marilyn Webb. This book discusses ethical issues surrounding death and dying as well as the hospice movement.
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. This popular narrative is of one man’s approach to his life and final days, seen through discourse with a former student.
  • Dying Well by Dr. Ira Byock. This book, written by an experienced palliative care physician and advocate for improved end-of-life care, contains stories of how patients go through the dying process with dignity and how their hospice team helped them along the way.

 

Suggested Reading FoR Dealing with ChroniC caregiving

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“The number one thing I found helpful was taking time for myself when possible.  Other things I thought helped were:

  • going on a walk to get fresh air
  • spending time with pets
  • take breaks to do something that is fun for a few hours away from being a caregiver or veterinary school 
  • have someone to talk to outside of your family”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Well-being Handbook by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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