Care: Looking after yourself first

Posted on: 12 June 2019 by Mary Jordan

Being a carer to a loved one can be isolating and exhausting. Here, Mary Jordan offers tips to reduce the stress and help you share the responsibility of caring more evenly

Self-care tips for carers

Dr Noel Collins made a very important point to carers in the book ‘The ‘D’ Word’ which we wrote together. He wrote ‘look after yourself first’. This is the same advice as given during a flight safety demonstration. Apply your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Being a carer is very stressful and very tiring. It can also be very fulfilling but caring for someone with dementia can sometimes feel as though we are labouring under an intolerable burden. It is very seldom, that the burden of caring seems to be shared equally amongst the family members.

So, keep in your mind that you are the main support for the person you care for and think about the following:

  • You need regular rest and respite in order to continue to give the best care.  Do not to feel guilty and do not allow any other family member to cause you to feel guilty at needing respite. Only someone who has been involved in giving the level of care which you have to give can understand the stress involved in caring for someone else – even someone who is much loved.
     
  • Consider your own health and sanity as well as that of their cared-for. You should never neglect your own health issues - if you are ill the person you are caring for will suffer as well since you will be unable to give the level of care you would wish to.  Do not put off a necessary medical procedure thinking that you have to do so to protect the person you are caring for. If you need to go into hospital for treatment yourself and family cannot step in to care for the person with dementia the local Social care team will make arrangements to help you.
     
  • Do ask for help from your friends and neighbours if you need it and accept any support offered. Carers are a huge ‘silent force’ within the community and many struggle on feeling that to ask for help is a confession of weakness and inability to cope.
     
  • Don’t think you have to be a ‘perfect carer’. We can all of us only do our best in our individual circumstances. If you sometimes feel cross or depressed or lose your temper this is quite normal (always seek help if you feel so stressed that you feel you might hurt your cared-for).
     
  • Remember that you cannot expect a person with dementia to understand the need you may have for relief or respite. People with dementia are mostly unaware of the strain that caring puts on those close to them.

About the author

Mary Jordan is Author of The Essential Carer’s Guide to Dementia and The ‘D’ Word (with Dr Noel Collins) (Both books by Hammersmith Health Books). You can read more about her work at MaryJordan.co.uk

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