Sometimes caring can feel overwhelming, and people often tell us that they feel guilty making time for their own needs, but looking after yourself is the best way to ensure that you can be there to provide the care and support you want to for your friend or relative.
Getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising are important
It sounds basic, but if you are not looking after your physical health you will find it much harder to cope with everything. You don’t need to enter MasterChef or start running marathons, but getting enough sleep, eating healthily and doing some form of exercise that you enjoy will help you to cope.
Enjoy time together
Sometimes you can spend so much time being your friend or relative’s carer, that you lose touch with some of your old relationship with them. It’s good to find ways to keep that relationship and enjoy time together. Often theatres and cinemas have good disabled access and will sometimes offer two-for-one tickets, so try to find something to do together that takes you out of your caring role and that you can both enjoy.
Make time for yourself
Caring for someone who is dying can be a physically and emotionally exhausting role and we all need a break sometimes. You wouldn’t normally spend 24-hours a day every day with someone, so it’s important that you make time to be yourself for a while. You shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying yourself – most people who need care would much rather see the people who are important to them continuing to live as normal a life as possible. Besides, they will probably enjoy hearing about what you have been doing!
Let the healthcare team know if you’re struggling
Sometimes it might seem overwhelming, things build up, and you feel you can’t manage. It’s ok to acknowledge that you’re struggling, and it’s better to let the healthcare team know before you reach crisis point, so they can help you get the extra support you need. Often, with the right support, you will find that you can cope.
Have someone to talk to
Caring for someone who is dying can be tremendously rewarding and you may feel closer to the person you are caring for, but it is also a time when you are likely to experience intense emotions including anger, guilt, stress and sadness.
We are all different and want different kinds of support at these times. If your normal way of dealing with things is to talk to a friend, then this is something you should keep doing. Other people find that support groups really help them.
You can find support groups for carers near where you live through:
People often asked “how do you do it?” I always said I couldn’t have done it without John’s positive attitude and love.