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'.

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