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Looking after yourself as a carer

"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"


  • As 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 relax.

  • 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 disturbance.

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  • Recognise 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.

  • Put 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.

  • Make 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.

  • Do 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.

This site has been established for the dissemination of information. While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site is accurate and current we accept no liability for any omissions or inaccuracies that may have crept in. If in any doubt please contact your doctor for further advice.

Last Modified 13 August 2004
Maintained by Matthew Harris