Looking after yourself when caring
In this section, we look at:
- how you can help yourself
- the emotional aspects of being a carer
- talking to someone about your feelings
- counselling and therapy
- and respite.
Your health and wellbeing is just as important as that of the person you care for.
You may have existing health issues that you need to take care of. In turn, you may find your health is affected by being a carer.
By looking after yourself, you will be able to better support the person you care for.
How to help yourself
As well as receiving the financial help and hands-on support you are entitled to, you can look after your own wellbeing by:
- telling your own GP about your caring role
- eating well, keeping active and getting enough sleep
- practising relaxation techniques
- getting proper moving and handling training so you
- don’t get injured
- exploring ways to deal with your emotions
Emotional aspects of being a carer
It is difficult to watch someone close to us suffer. It can be particularly hard seeing a partner, friend or relative who has a lung condition struggle with shortness of breath and other symptoms. You might feel a range of emotions, such as:
- worry and fear
- stress and anxiety
- sadness and depression
- guilt and resentment
- frustration and anger
- loneliness and isolation
The first thing to bear in mind is that it’s completely normal to feel these things. Many carers have faced depression because of their caring role. People have different ways of coping with these feelings, but it’s important that you address them.
Talking to someone
Depending on your relationship with the person you care for, it might help to be open with them about how you feel. Try having frequent chats with them about how you’re both feeling, to prevent issues from building up and becoming a bigger problem than they need to be.
Attending a support group, where you discuss your feelings with other carers whose lives have been affected by the same problems, can be a great way to work through your troubles, realise you’re not alone, and make new friends along the way.” Carers Trust
Some people find that talking to friends and relatives eases the load. However, it’s often useful to talk to someone neutral too.
The specialist nurses and advisers on our helpline are available to answer your questions. Call 03000 030 555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also call the Carers UK Adviceline on 0808 808 7777 or email email@example.com
Samaritans provides completely confidential support, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123.
Sometimes it’s useful to speak to others in the same position as you. The BLF, Carers UK and the Carers Trust have online forums and communities where you can share experiences and chat with other carers. They will also be able to tell you about local groups.
Face-to-face counselling and therapy
It may be a good idea to talk to your GP if you’re struggling, or if you feel you would benefit from having someone to talk to on a more formal basis. Your GP should be able to refer you to counselling or therapy, but there is sometimes quite a long wait for state-funded services.
You can find private counsellors and therapists in your area through the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapy, but going directly to a practitioner means you will have to pay.
Alternatively, you could get in touch with your local Mind, whose services include drop-in centres and training, counselling and befriending. Visit Mind's website to find your nearest service or contact the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or firstname.lastname@example.org
There are a number of resources available online and in books providing tools to help deal with emotions like stress, anxiety and depression. Why not search online or at your local library? You could also ask your GP to make a recommendation.
An assessment of the needs of the person you care for should also allow for you to have time away from caring. This is called respite.
This could mean arranging for either you or the person you care for to attend a day centre. Or it could mean that a professional carer comes to the home of the person you care for every week for a couple of hours. Respite can be arranged around what suits you and the person you care for.
You should discuss arranging alternative home care or a temporary residential stay for the person you care for with your support worker, social worker or other health care professional. They will talk you through the options available, which include home respite care through a third-party organisation, often called a Crossroads Care scheme.
If you live in England or Wales, you can find out more about the scheme through Carers Trust or by calling 0844 800 4361.
In Scotland, the scheme is run by Crossroads Caring Scotland. Visit their website or call 0141 226 3793.
If you live in Northern Ireland, contact Crossroads Caring for Carers NI online or call 028 9181 4455