Are you caring for an elderly family member, a friend or a neighbour on a regular basis? However much you like or love the person being cared for, the emotional and physical demands of the role can be stressful. This can cause damaging emotional and physical symptoms, and should be faced before it harms your health and makes you a less effective in your caring role.
There is a lot of support available. Different sorts of support include the following:
Write a list of tasks that you would appreciate help with: spending time with the person while you go shopping, doing some cooking for you, weeding the garden… people really do like to help. Try it! If they offer help, never turn down an offer; they may not ask again.
Visit your doctor for regular examinations, not just with the person you care for, but also for yourself. Write lists of things that concern you, or questions to ask. Ask for help from other relevant professionals too.
Keep a list of useful telephone numbers of local services that you can contact for help.
See if there is a local carers’ group. Talking with others who have similar experiences can help you to feel understood and part of a community of friendly people. When carers get together, they often find that they share similar feelings. Also, look for online groups where you can exchange ideas, find friendship and ask questions.
Time for Yourself
Set aside regular time do something just for yourself. This may be a special time daily, where you can listen to music, read the newspaper or go for a walk. Socialize with others and maintain your hobbies and interests. Keep in contact with the world outside your caring role. If possible, take short breaks away, asking family members or local support services to supply care in your absence.
Remember to care for yourself as a top priority. Keep to a well-balanced diet. Do not resort to comfort-eating, smoking or drinking too much alcohol if you feel trapped at home. Organise physical activities – these can boost your energy and your mood. Make sure you get enough sleep. If your sleep is disturbed by the person that you care for, discuss this with your doctor, to find a practical solution without delay. If caring duties involve lifting the person, take special care of your back. Ask for professional help and get some lifting aids.
If you start feeling depressed, anxious or stressed, see your doctor as soon as possible. This is easier to tackle at an early stage. Enjoy doing things with the person you are caring for, and have fun together. Do not just get into the rut of doing everyday chores. Allow him or her to do as much as possible to help you or help him/herself.
The Academy for Distance Learning offers courses that may be relevant to your caring needs. In particular, the course Caring for Elderly People BPS212 provides students with in-depth knowledge and a course that will prove invaluable to people who work in elderly care contexts.