TAKING CARE OF YOUR NEEDS AS A CARER

It is important for everyone to ‘look after himself or herself’ but it is especially important for carers who have a responsibility for themselves and another person.

Whilst you may feel ‘I don’t have time’ – remember it is valuable to make some time, however small, for yourself. If you feel ‘OK’ then life for everyone will be easier.

The emotional and physical demands of caring

These can be very tiring and extremely stressful but no matter how much you like or love the person you care for. If you live with the person you care for then it can make it more difficult to take time out, however if you don’t live with the person, you may find it difficult to relax and unwind at home.

As a carer you need to be healthy, this means eating a healthy balanced diet and taking some exercise.

A visit to your doctor or well woman/man clinic for advice on diet and fitness can be important.

Informing your doctor that you are a carer and giving details of the extent of your caring and your current situation will enable him/her to give the appropriate support and advice. This in turn will allow you to have the energy to look after the person you care for.

Diet

Eating a healthy balanced diet is important for all, but for carers it may be difficult owing to various problems incurred when looking after someone.

The person you are looking after may have a special diet and/or feeding needs, meal times may be difficult and ‘put you off eating’ and perhaps after cooking you may not feel like cooking for yourself.

It is vitally important to eat healthily, it will not only give you energy but it will boost your immune system, thus reducing the risk of you falling ill.

Try to get a good Nights Sleep

Carers often find it difficult to have good nights sleep. Often the person they are looking after may need care, be up in the night or they may need help with toilet needs.

Stress is also a factor in a broken sleep even if the person you care for has no problems with their sleeping habits. It is important to find out the reason behind a lack of sleep. Relaxation techniques can often help with sleeping problems, but if sleeplessness becomes intolerable a visit to your doctor may help.

Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies can work alongside conventional medicine to help with our overall health. In complementary therapy the whole person is looked at, not just a specific symptom.

Carers may benefit from this as many illnesses are connected to the stresses and strains of their role as a carer. Further information may be available from the Carers Centre, advice centres, through specialist shops etc. or contact your GP.

Training for Carers

Looking after someone who has an illness or disability may need different skills other than those used before. Skills such as being able to lift someone without harming yourself, learning to help someone who is choking and how to handle the stress you may be under.

These are not skills that we are born with and seeking training is not an admission of not being able to cope, it is reassuring and important to learn how to cope with these events if and when they happen. The Carers Centre regularly runs courses on various subjects such as:

Holidays

Everyone needs a holiday or break from their everyday life and a chance to relax and unwind. Carers are no different, but holidays can be difficult to organise when people have additional responsibilities.

A Carer may feel that he or she can’t go away on holiday if the cared-for person cannot be left. Because a carer often provides the only source of support for someone, he or she may come to believe that no-one else is capable of meeting their needs and that a holiday is therefore out of the question.

This is not necessarily the case. It may be possible if you wish, to take a holiday with the person you care for and there are places that offer special facilities and support for people with disabilities and their carers.

Alternatively, you may wish to go away on your own – in this case, respite care would need to be arranged or the person you care for may also like to go on a separate holiday. There are several possibilities to suit different needs and information about various types of holidays and respite care is available in the Carers Centre library.

Whatever arrangement you choose, it is important to plan well ahead to make sure that everything fits together and the holiday is a success for everyone concerned.

Advocacy

Sometimes people find it difficult to find out about the services that are available to help them. Added to that, many carers find it difficult to ask for help at all. The result is often that carers feel increasingly alone.
It can be a big help to be able to talk to someone about concerns, worries, questions and plans and to have someone there to offer support when decisions have to be made. Some carers have family members who can fulfil this role.

Others may not have relatives who live locally or they prefer not to burden them with their worries. Advocacy services can provide trained staff or volunteers who will have time to listen and discuss your concerns and ideas, help to find information about relevant services and if you wish, can be there with you for support in meetings with staff.

General

Try to keep up on your interests and hobbies and cultivate new interests that you can get on with during spare moments at home – a few minutes spent in craft work, reading, gardening etc. will make a real break from routine every day jobs. You will notice the benefit!

Try to get into a pattern of making ‘time for you’ as a natural part of the day and don’t feel guilty about it. Everyone needs space and time, however small. If this becomes part of your natural routine it will not disrupt the daily activities.

Keep up with friends, even if the best you can manage is a quick phone call or note now and again.

After you have given up Caring

There may be many reasons why you are no longer caring – perhaps the person you are caring for has recovered, gone into residential care, hospital or has died. There may be a lot of different emotions, which you might experience at this time – loneliness, guilt, grief, anger, isolation and even feeling completely numb.

You may also have worries about day-to-day things such as money and housing. All these feelings are completely normal and, as with other things, different people may respond in different ways. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it: someone to talk to can help and trained counsellors are available in a number of organisations. For further information about any of these issues please contact your local carers association.

Requesting a Carers Assessment

You may request a carer’s assessment at any time.

Before your needs are assessed it is important to think through issues in advance they may include:

How willing and how able are you to be able to provide care now and in the future?

How caring affects your social life or job?

Will you need breaks from caring?
How good is your health?

Are there any relationship or financial problems?

What emotional support do you need?

What other responsibilities do you have e.g. bringing up children, caring for elderly parents?

What would happen if you became ill?

Are you able to provide care efficiently?

Do you need someone to help you get your views across?

What do you want from the assessment?

As a result of the assessment, services may be provided for you and/or the person you care for.

In some areas local authorities will charge for them and should inform you about this. Also money may be provided to enable you to buy the services you need.

Contact your local social services office. You can find out the address of your local social services department in the telephone directory.