Sunday, April 10, 2011

Caring for the carer

Carers are people who provide care and support to those who are ill, frail or disabled. It is estimated that every 3 in 5 people will become carers at some point in their lives.

Carers are often family members or friends and they do it out of the goodness of their hearts. Their job is often unpaid, and although caring can be a rewarding experience, carers can also struggle with social isolation, discrimination, financial or health problems. A new survey by Carers Scotland showed that more than half of responders have a long term illness or disability themselves, most often back pain, stress, anxiety or depression.

photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

If you are a carer you are by definition someone who can put another person first - this is great, but you can't forget about your own needs. If you don't make sure you are well and happy, your energy to support your loved one will suffer. It's as simple as that: you need to look after yourself first in order to care for someone else.

Here is a list of 8 top tips on how to look after yourself when you are a carer:

1. Eat healthy and regularly - food is a source of energy, so don't forget to eat regular meals.

2. Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water; avoid too much tea, coffee or alcohol.

3. Keep fit - exercise not only boosts our energy level, but also helps building strong bones, muscles and joints, improves sleep and promotes mental and emotional well-being. You don't have to go to the gym three times per week but make sure that you take regular exercise adjusted to your level of fitness. IF you can, try exercise outdoors, preferably in nature.

4. Be mindful of your own stress levels - learn how to recognise and manage stress in positive way.

5. Don't forget about your own needs and make sure you have time for yourself. Meet friends, relax, have a hobby. You need to recharge your batteries and your inner source of happiness.

6. Make sure you sleep enough and have rest and regular breaks. Read more about sleep hygiene and benefits of good night sleep.

7. Don't feel embarrassed to ask for help. Learn how to do it, if you find it difficult. It's NOT a sign of weakness.

8. Make sure you have enough support for yourself. Talk to someone you trust or find a support group for careers.

More support for carers at Carers UK website. More information for carers in 'Caring - The Essential Guide'.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to care for a person with Alzheimer's Disease

This is an Alzheimer's Blogging Competition entry organised by The Disabled Shop Blog.

For as little as £1 or $1 you can support Alzheimer's research, help defeating the illness, win fabulous prizes (one year membership of Aweber, one year's membership of Survey Monkey or e-commerce, get a regular writing gig for The Disabled Shop to name a few only) and promote your blog.
All you need to do it donate money (all profits will go to Alzheimer's Research UK), write your post, email the organisers and promote it.
For more details and web addresses for donations and post promotion see The Disabled Shop Blog.

Here is my entry for the contest.
General principles of how to care for a person with Alzheimer's Disease as suggested by WHO.

1. Help your loved one establish a daily routine as soon  as possible and keep it going.In the early stages, the person suffering from AD is able to adapt to necessary changes, but in more advanced stages changes to the layout of the room, times of meals, etc can cause a lot of confusion and anxiety.

2. Provide your loved one with a well-balanced diet, rich in proteins and fibre, and calorific value adequate to the weight and height. Ask a dietitian or your GP for help if necessary.

3. Make sure their personal hygiene is good.
4. Establish a good, or even rigid routine for toilet habits.

5. Minimise risk of tripping, falling or slipping accidents
, by ensuring your loved one wears securely fitted soft slip-on shoes, reducing or eliminating potentially dangerous furnishing and securing floor covering.

6. Take care of appropriate fluid intake during the day, and try to reduce any drinking after 6pm.

7. Help managing abrupt changes in mood by keeping the environment calm, following established routines, keeping things simple, using calming, positive music.

8. Reduce the risk of the sufferer wandering: secure the doors, make sure they wear an identification bracelet or a card, and don't leave the house unaccompanied.

9. Maintain night time sleep pattern, avoid naps during the day.

10. Make sure your loved one receives appropriate medical treatment for Alzheimer's Disease and any coexisting medical and emotional conditions.

More details on WHO website.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top tips for a happy marriage

A recently published research (Tempting fate or inviting happiness?) shows that spouses who idealise their partner are more likely to have a happy marriage (at least in the first three years). So love is blind and we'd better leave it this way?

Psychologists, social scientists and marital specialists have been trying to identify ingredients of a perfect couple, happy marriage or successful relationship.
The most popular one are those of John M. Gottman on predictors of divorce and David Olson's Enrich inventory which helped identify a list of top ten strenghts of a happy couple.

photo by photostock

What are the key attributes of happy couples according to these studies?
How to achieve happiness in your relationship?

1. Good communication - happy couples exchange ideas, feelings, news, beliefs, they share problems - all that in a polite, respectful and appreciative manner. They listen to one another, try to understand and be understood

2. Ability to adjust to change - happy couples are creative in ways they resolve conflicts or address problems.

3. Good balance of togetherness and separateness - happy couples do things together and spend quality time together, but also allow for periods of time to self.

4. Constructive resolution of conflict - when criticising, happy couples don't generalise ('You always do this', or 'You never say that'); they attack the problem not the person, they don't withdraw from the interaction.

5. Agreement in financial matters - happy couples agree on how to handle money.

6. Satisfying sexual life - happy couples' sexual life is a s good as their emotional life; they give and receive satisfying amount of affection and they don't worry that their partners may want to have an affair.

7. Shared values - happy couples share values and spiritual beliefs.

8. Shared parental responsibilities and agreement on child rearing methods.

Here you can find more information on the qualities of successful marriages.

What do you think is important for a couple to have a satisfying relationship? What are your tips for a happy marriage?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Depression-proof your life

A recent article in the British Journal of Psychiatry warns that the current economic crisis and changes in traditional female and male roles are likely to cause an increase in depression rates among men.

photo by Salvatore Vuono
Men and women often experience depression differently. For many women depression means feeling sad, worthless or guilty, while men are more likely to admit to feeling easily tired, being irritablelosing interest in once–pleasurable activities, and struggling with sleep.

Different life events may also affects both genders differently, and a commentary on Men's Health Forum argues that unemployment has a much bigger impact on men because of male identity being strongly related to professional roles and work, and men's social network are more likely to be work-centred. In this context losing a job not only means losing a source of income and an important role of a breadwinner, but also affect your self-esteem, confidence, sense of belonging and a crucial source of support.

In the current climate of economic uncertainty is there a way of depression-proofing your life?
It is impossible to guarantee that you will never become depressed but here is a list of 7 steps you can take to reduce the risk of becoming depressed:

1. Take care of yourself. Build your self-esteem: list things you like about yourself and learn to accept what you can't change. Make sure you do things you enjoy as often as you can. Surround yourself with people who you like and who like and support you. Don't take too much on. Learn to say no.

2. Manage stress. Changes in the brain triggered by stress are similar to those in depression, and chronic stress can cause physical damage to your brain. So learn to relax, meditate or release bad emotions, whether through exercise, yoga, meditation or talking to someone trusted.

3. Get regular exercise. Even when you not feeling like it, get up and go for a walk, run, to the gym or a game of your favourite sport. Exercise is a fabulous antidepressant as it releases hormones of happiness, boosts our own serotonin levels (low level of serotonin is the mechanism of depression), reduces stress, helps getting rid of body tension and improves sleep. These benefits can be further increased if you exercise outdoors.

4. Be connected. Social isolation and loneliness can cause depression, and depression increases your chances of feeling isolated. Cultivate supportive relationships - family, friends, social groups you belong to. If you currently don't have many supportive people around you, join a group or forum - whether it's a hobby club, your local church, or a group dedicated to supporting people with depression or other mental health problems.

5. Develop healthy lifestyle habits. Get enough night time sleep. Have regular routine. Eat healthy.

6. Get rid of that negative thinking. Whether you're guilty of all-or-nothing, jumping to conclusion, overuse 'should', disqualify the positive or tends to see what fits your mood - try to change it. Here's more information on cognitive distortions that can lead to depression.

7. Ask for help when you need it. Learn how to recognise signs of depression and don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for support and seek professional help.

What are your favourite ways of keeping depression at bay?