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Look After Yourself

It is important to take care of yourself, as well as the person you look after. However, this is often easier said than done! The person you care for may be worried when you are not there, or only want you to carry out certain personal tasks. But just think how much worse it would be for them if your own health broke down and you could not be there at all.

You can only continue caring successfully if you look after your own health. The information and practical suggestions below can help you to do this.

Common Challenges for Carers

Caring is stressful
Everyone feels stressed at times, but as a Carer you may be under a continual pressure that can leave you feeling drained. You may be coping with all sorts of stressful situations such as aggression, wandering, night disturbances, incontinence, or family and financial problems.

If you do not look after yourself your physical and mental health can begin to break down with an increase in headaches, infections, stomach upsets or general aches and pains. Then even small problems can seem very large, making you angry or emotional.

Coping with Change
When first starting to care for someone you may have to make quite a few changes in your own life. If this involves leaving a job or having less time to spend with others you may find yourself cut off from your usual sources of support. Very few of us can manage without someone to tell us we are OK now and again. Try to make some regular space for doing the things that let you know you are OK, whether it’s visiting a friend or just taking a little time to review the day, congratulating yourself on your successes and forgiving yourself for your mistakes.

If you have already spent a lot of your life with the person you are caring for, it may be the change in them which is most difficult to deal with. Many Carers go through a period of grieving as if the person they are caring for has died. This can seem strange but actually is perfectly normal, for the person they knew and loved may have changed beyond recognition. If the feeling of loss is difficult to bear, your GP, Social Worker, or Carer Support Worker may be able to refer you to a counselor who is specially trained in this area.

Should you find yourself in a position where the type of care provided needs to change, you will probably experience many complicated and perhaps unexpected feelings. Taking a decision to make a large change in your caring role is never easy.

There may be feelings of guilt and anger associated with these changes in the caring role. You may feel angry with yourself because you need to make this change, some people may have feelings of anger that the person they care for has placed them in this position, even when it is not of their choice. These are all normal and natural feelings and need to be acknowledged. When the person you have been caring for moves into sonic form of permanent care.

Sadness can be mixed with relief and many Carers feel guilty about this. Relieved or not after you have been with someone caring for them every day, you may feel very lonely and find it difficult to cope with the enormous change in your life. Give yourself time to adapt to your new circumstances. Visit the person as often as you like in their new home, but don’t visit every day just because you feel you must. Talk to others about your feelings. Talk to your Carer Support Worker, or go along to a Support Meeting and you will find that other Carers have these same feelings, that you can share them and help each other.

What you can do

Take a Break
There are a number of ways of releasing the pressure or getting a break. Social Services may be able to arrange time out to take a break, this may enable you to have a break on a regular basis. Some of these services are free, for others you will may be asked to pay part or all of the costs. By asking for help you will not only be helping yourself but the person you care for as well. Sometimes an hour or two is all it takes to gather your thoughts and be refreshed.

Learn to Let Go
Many Carers, after the first difficult days, realise that the person they care for also benefits from their being able to let go. If you can be happy about a different person coming into the house to help someone new to talk to can be a pleasure – not just a worry – for not only you but also the person you care for. If you are able to relax when the person you care for goes to a Day Centre or a Home, then the change will be easier for them.

Coping with Conflict
There will be times when things get too much. Saying “no” to someone we care for is one of the most difficult situations anyone can face, and for Carers it can be even more difficult, but it may be very necessary.

At times it may be best to avoid confrontation, even when you know you are in the right. If possible go out of the room or into the garden for a few minutes, giving you and the person you care for space to calm down and think things through.

With some conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, the person cared for may, become very difficult and argumentative. When you know you want what is best for them but are being accused of being difficult yourself you may start to question your own sanity. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional advice. It often helps to have someone reassure you that it is not you but the condition which is the problem. We all know that conflict can arise particularly between those under a number of stresses.

Often there are disagreements about how things should be done, or divided loyalties. Painful situations are sometimes allowed to go on for far too long. It can take a lot of courage to face one another and get things out into the open.

Asking for Help
The surest route to an Emergency Situation is through not looking after your own needs. You must be honest about the limits of your own ability to care.

Recognise your strengths, but also be aware of areas in which you need support or advice. This is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a necessary part of caring as well. It is all too easy to put someone else’s needs so far in advance of your own that you will forget the simple basics such as eating well. A Carer who is tired, undernourished, bored, frustrated, or even ill and not paying attention to this may one day wake up and find that they can no longer cope. It is very difficult, and can be almost impossible, if the person you are looking after demands only your care and attention but you have to try to be strong enough to say no.

Remember you are Important too
We may be able to suggest some kind of assistance which is acceptable both to you and the person you care for. For more information on how to contact us, or find your local DCA Office please click here.