In this section:
> Stress management
> Technology and stress relief
> Less Salt
> Lower cholesterol
> Coping with guilt
> Be more assertive
> Boost your immune system
> Tempt your elderly or frail relatives outdoors
> Avoiding back pain
> Getting the most from your GP
> Advice on prescribed drugs
> Difficult conversations
> Moving the person you care for
> Relaxation tips
> Laughter therapy
Professor Graham Stokes, Director of Dementia Care, Bupa Care Homes
19 June 2012
It’s National Carers Week, so there couldn’t be a better time to take a step back and reassess your own health and wellbeing.
It’s a sad fact that some carers experience feelings of guilt when even talking about their own health and wellbeing. Many feel they should only focus on the person they care for and regard any self-interest as selfish. This should never be the case; don’t lose sight of who you are.
Remember, you’re not just a carer – you’re a sister, a husband, a mother, a friend, who is selfless and kind enough to devote a significant part of your life to helping someone else. And because of this, you should have regard for yourself and remember your own needs, health and happiness.
Make time for you
Nobody should sacrifice themselves entirely for somebody else, nor should you feel guilty if you become tired and want some space to yourself or a day off to do something fun. It’s so important to make time for you. Having time away from caring doesn’t necessarily have to be physical – it can simply be having some time alone at home to read, relax or even sleep. A few hours off now and then is the least you deserve; feeling guilty is common, but your health and wellbeing should come first.
If you lose sight of who you are, what you like doing and fulfilling other aspects of your life, caring will become a burden, affecting you both physically and mentally. If you don’t make time to focus on your own needs, you will become exhausted and stressed, which over time can lead to anxiety and depression.
Most people who need care have chronic conditions, meaning they last for years, and very often, for their whole life. If you’re going to be caring for someone for the long term, it’s even more important to make time for you. By looking after yourself, you will be happier, have more energy and, in essence, be able to care better and feel proud of what you do.
To be able to care for many years will only be possible if you take the time to care for yourself. Enjoy your own experiences, have fun and make time to see friends and do hobbies you love. Many carers often feel guilty when doing these things, but being healthy and happy will help you through the tougher days of caring.
Ask for help
You can also feel guilty if you become stressed, frustrated or angry on certain days. This is completely normal, something that every carer will experience, and you should never feel ashamed or guilty asking for help. Ask family and friends to lend a hand. No one can do it alone. Maybe try setting up a ‘care team’, so the caring can be shared between a set few people, or you have someone on standby to take over when you need a break. Even a couple of hours to have a walk and get some fresh air can do you the world of good.
Caring can become increasingly hard as the person’s condition progresses. Over time, they may become less mobile, quieter, seem distant or you may feel that they don’t recognise or know who you are anymore. This can be very hard to accept, but remember, even if they don’t recognise you as a husband, a wife, a sister or a friend, they will still, on some level, recognise you as someone who looks after them and cares about them.
You do an amazing job, so remember to care for yourself, have time to do the things you want and know that it’s OK to ask for help and have that all important ‘me time’.
Do you have your own thoughts on the difficulties of looking after yourself as a carer?
For Carers Week, several Bupa medical experts, including Dr Graham Stokes are on hand to answer your questions.
Produced in collaboration with Bupa’s Health Information Team, June 2012