If you are carer for a spouse or other family member, it can be all too easy to forget about caring for yourself.
It may be that somewhere in the back of your mind you’re aware that having a bit of time out would be a good thing, both for you and for the person you care for. But somehow, this thought gets lost amidst the busyness, or overpowered by another voice somewhere in your head that says you haven’t got time, you can do without it or that you would feel too guilty.
This sort of thought process is certainly not uncommon, but that doesn’t make it right! It is not selfish to take time for yourself; everyone needs time to relax and look after themselves, especially people who do the very difficult job of caring for someone.
Caring for a loved one can be physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Over time, without time out and strategies to manage such demands, these stresses can lead to poor health in carers or put negative pressures on the relationship between them and the person they care for.
Looking after yourself and making time to do the things you enjoy in life will help you keep things in perspective, give you fresh energy to carry out your role as carer and also give the person you care for a break from you! While it may feel difficult to leave someone else in charge for a while, it is good for everyone to have contact with a variety of trusted people.
So, where to start? It might be worth making a list of things you think you’d like to have time to do. You may want half an hour to sit and read a book, some time to get some exercise or a moment to meet a friend for a coffee. Whatever you have in mind, plan it into your daily or weekly schedule and then stick to it – remember that it is a priority and don’t let other things take precedence at that time. Planning ahead will help you to do this and also to organise others to help out if that’s necessary.
It may be that you can ask friends or family members to offer support or that you look into respite care options. Some organisations provide break services for carers.
If you know someone who is a carer, make the effort to offer to step in from time to time or even on a regular basis – often, carers don’t like to burden others and therefore find it difficult to ask for the help they may need in order to give them that much needed time for themselves.
For more detailed information about being a carer, download the Carers UK Looking after someone guide, at: www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/get-resources/looking-after-someone