What can carers do to look after themselves?
Carers say the following things have most helped them to cope:
Breaks in caring
This can mean anything from daily breaks of an hour or two, to respite holidays of one or more weeks, plus anything in between.
Many carers feel guilty if they take time out for themselves, but it is vital that you make time for yourself.
Make use of offers of support from family and friends. Do something you enjoy that helps you switch off and find yourself again for awhile. Make this part of your caring routine.
Your local council can also help, for both regular short breaks and less frequent longer breaks. Speak to them about whether your loved one could attend a day centre or if they can arrange for 'respite care'.
You may also have a local carer's centre that can offer help.
Take steps to retain or build yourself a support network
Let people know what you need, no matter how small - friends are sometimes nervous about asking.
Let others know you are a carer
- your employer - most employers will do what they can to be flexible and to help.
- your GP - to look after you properly, they need to know your circumstances.
- your local social services - ask for a carer's assessment to work out what practical and financial support is available to you.
Make a list of useful numbers, especially for out of hours.
Check with your health team about the circumstances in which you need to ask for help.
Look after your physical health
It's important that you do not sacrifice your own health.
Try to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can affect your concentration and ability to make decisions. It can also make you feel depressed and increase your risk of some health conditions. Talk to your GP for advice or medication.
Make sure you eat well. This will give you more energy to provide the care.
Ask about the many aids and adaptations that are available (e.g. hoists, rails). Make sure you are trained in using them correctly.
Get trained in moving and handling a person and learn more about medications and their side-effects.
If your loved one becomes violent
Some tumours can affect a person's ability to control their behaviour and emotions, leading to aggressive behaviour.
Learn to read the trigger signs and seek help from your healthcare team to manage these symptoms more safely.
Remember - it is the disease, not the person, that is doing this.
You are entitled by law to a carer's assessment by the local authority to assess your own needs. This includes any help that would maintain your own health and also balance caring with other aspects of your life.
Get everything in writing - this ensures less confusion and less is forgotten.
Find out about any financial assistance that is available to you. This is an important part of looking after yourself and relieving your stress.
Only use expert, trained advisors. We can direct you to this support.
Emotional health and support
Being a carer is not easy. It can be physically and emotionally demanding and may have been thrown on you with no time to adjust.
Although you may gain much personal satisfaction from being a carer, feelings of anxiety, stress, frustration, fear, anger, isolation and loneliness are also common.