|Looking after yourself as a
"I told the doctor that I
was finding it a bit hard and he said 'you have your own life'. That is why I
got outside help"
a carer, it is easy to become so focused on the needs of the person you
are looking after that your own health begins to suffer. This will not
help either of you. Looking after your own health is an essential part of
caring for someone else. Take time out from caring to eat, exercise and to
- You need to keep
as fit as possible and to eat a balanced and varied diet, with plenty of
fresh fruit and vegetables. Watch your weight and avoid under- or
over-eating. Drink adequate fluids (8 to 10 cups a day are recommended)
and use alcohol only in moderation. Avoid smoking more cigarettes and give
up, if possible.
- Even though you
are physically active as a carer, you should try to make time for regular
exercise. Simple activities such as moving to music, a brisk walk to the
shops, or some gardening will help to make you feel more energetic and
provide a break from your daily routine. Try using the car less. Group
activities, such as rambling, dancing or swimming are healthy and fun and
provide an opportunity to socialise as well as exercise.
- Try to avoid
becoming too stressed, by learning to relax, to manage your time
efficiently and to get regular sleep. Don’t feel guilty accepting help
when it is offered. Put at least a few minutes aside each day to
consciously relax and relieve muscle tension in a quiet room without
signs of depression (e.g. loss of enjoyment,
feelings of powerlessness and guilt, poor sleep and tiredness,
constant low mood and becoming easily upset or tearful).
Early identification is important as symptoms can be helped by
counselling and/or drugs. Seek advice from your family doctor, or other
professionals that you trust.
extra effort into maintaining your social life. You can keep contact by
telephone, and by inviting people to come to visit you more often. This
will be stimulating and enjoyable for all of you.
sure that you do not neglect having regular health check ups for
yourself, as well as for the person you care for - including visits to
the dentist, for eye tests and for chiropody. It is sensible for both
carer as well as the cared for to have the flu vaccination each year.
not push yourself too hard or for too long. If you find yourself
becoming irritable or moody or feeling tired all the time, then it is
time you had a break. If it is difficult to leave the person you care
for, consider asking other family members or local community or
voluntary services to organise some regular respite. You need time to
yourself to relax and to ‘refuel your batteries’.
Your doctor, or specialist nursing staff can
advise on general health issues.
Useful books include:
‘A Carer’s Guide to Good Health’, by
Lynette Cusak and Sheryl Navin, published in 1994 by Michelle Anderson
Publishing. ISBN 0 855 72207X
‘Better Health in Retirement’, by Anne
roberts, published in 2001 by Age Concern London. ISBN 0 862 422 515.