When you’re caring for a loved one, whether it’s an elderly parent or a relative with a life-limiting illness, it’s important to look after yourself and your own health and wellbeing. This will help you to maintain the energy and good health that you need to be able to be an effective carer for someone else. There is support out there to help you if you’re struggling to care for someone else.
It is important for you to keep on doing the kind of activities that you enjoy away from your duties as a carer. If you can regular breaks from caring for someone, you can avoid becoming worn out and not being able to support them anymore. Make sure you take at least a little time out to do something just for you every day.
You should never feel guilty about taking time out for yourself. A lot of people who have to be cared for by their relatives feel more comfortable accepting help if they know that the ones caring for them are still able to some time out for their own rest and relaxation. You might not be able to cut out all the stress that comes with caring for someone else, but it will help you if you can take some steps to look after yourself.
Your Health And Wellbeing
If you are caring for someone else, or have someone under a conservatorship, it can be easy to put your own needs after the needs of your loved one. However, if you are feeling tired or stressed, you do need to look after yourself, so you are able to continue to care for the person that needs your help and support.
Take the time to get some exercise. Every day you should try to do something physical like a walk or stretching. Find an exercise you enjoy, like swimming, dancing, or cycling. If you can exercise, you can also maintain some more energy.
Make sure you get enough sleep. It’s common for carers to struggle with their sleep. If you do struggle, limit your intake of coffee and alcohol, especially later on in the day. Before bedtime, try something relaxing, like a warm bath or a herbal tea. If you find that you’re still struggling to fall asleep after twenty minutes, get up, do something else, and then try again. If you have to get up in the night to help the person you’re caring for, try to get some rest during the day, like a nap. If you often have trouble sleeping, it could be worth seeing your nurse or doctor.
Try to keep up a healthy diet. Sometimes this can be hard to do when you’re busy, especially if stress is affecting your appetite. If you’re caring for someone though, you need to keep your strength up, so try to eat a balanced diet. Of course, you can always treat yourself with something you really enjoy occasionally too.
Find the time to do something for yourself every day. Find a few things that you enjoy that will give you a little break to refresh your energy. Make sure you keep up social contact with your friends and find time for your own activities as much as you can.
If you’re religious, try to keep up with going to church at least once a week. Whether it’s prayer, yoga, or Eucharistic adoration, doing things for your spiritual growth can really help you with self-care for your own mental health.
Caring for someone who has a life-limiting illness can take a real toll on your own emotions. It’s important to care for your own emotional health so you can carry on caring and keep up your own emotional strength.
When things seem hopeless, some people find it useful to put their hope into different, small things. For example, if you’re caring for someone with a lifelong illness, you might not be able to care for a cure, but you can have hope that your loved one has a day where they feel well.
Other family and friends can offer some support, but it can also be helpful to talk to a professional, like a counselor. someone who is not connected to you or the person you’re caring for can offer a different perspective and help you to see things clearly.
A counselor can help in lots of different ways:
- Suggesting ways to manage relationships
- Giving ideas for better communication
- Advising you on how better balance your own needs with caring
If you think you would benefit from professional help, you can start by talking to your usual doctor who can then refer you to a specialist.
Carers often don’t seek help for themselves, as they feel the needs of the person they’re caring for are more important. If your loved one is receiving palliative care, it’s also common to feel that the care team is too busy to offer you help.
Remember that you are an important part of the care team. Your wellbeing is just as important if you are going to keep providing support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help for yourself, whether your loved one is in palliative care, or you’re caring for someone recovering from addiction and going through challenging heroin addiction treatment and you need advice from their team.
Using Respite Services
Carer support and respite services are available to you if you need to take a break from the responsibilities of caring. There are options including having a volunteer stay with your loved one so you can have a break, or sending your loved one into care for a few days so you can have a longer rest to better recuperate.
If you are struggling with feelings of frustration, guilt, or irritation, remember it’s normal to feel like this. If you’re overwhelmed, reach out for help.
More Options For Help For Carers
There are lots of options out there that might help you if you’re struggling, which you may not have thought of yourself. If you’re finding it hard, you could try some of these ideas, which include:
- Take one day at a time. It’s normal to worry about the future, but try and focus on each day as it happens.
- Make a list of other people that might be able to help you. A list will show you just how many people you can call on. If no one can help, ask the palliative, or medical, care team about what support is available for you.
- Keep a diary of issues to keep track. This can serve as a reminder when giving care or health updates to doctors or other carers.
- Ask friends or relatives to prepare meals. People are often happy to help and will willingly do this. Services that deliver meals can also help with this.
- Ask a friend to stay overnight. Having some extra company is nice, and might help you sleep better.
- Talk to your work about possible flexible work options.
- Book a cleaner to take care of chores at home. Maybe a friend or relative will help with this too.
- If you have a few people willing to take on caring duties, make a roster so you can split up the time between you.
- Send out an email to friends and relatives to keep them update and send out requests for any help you need. This saves making a lot of phone calls.
- Give yourself rewards. You’re working hard, so take a break, do something special just for you that makes you feel good.