Tips from other carers

Caring for a loved one can bring changes to your life, often accompanied by emotions you’ve never experienced before. Some people feel that caring for a loved one is their responsibility and no one else’s. Perhaps they’re too uncomfortable to ask for help and believe no one else can provide as good care, or maybe their loved one will only accept care from them.

Each situation is different, but many people find their emotions can switch between the love and satisfaction of caring, and resentment over its impact on their life. This can lead to feelings of guilt, stress, anger, and exhaustion. Recognise these emotions and talk them through with a trusted friend or support group.

It’s okay to ask for help

Friends and family are a great source of help and support, so don’t ever feel that they would resent helping out. More than likely they admire what you do and would like to be able to contribute in some way. It’s not a weakness to ask – it could even provide the downtime you need in order to be a better carer.

Ask family members to commit to certain tasks around the house, or at specific times in the week. It’s best to ask during family gatherings, as they’ll be more likely to volunteer when they see others lending a hand too. Create a rota to confirm everyone’s promises – and encourage people to pair up if they don’t feel able to help out on their own.

Take friends up on any offers of help. If you can’t get to the shops and they’re going there, it will hardly inconvenience them to pick up a few extras for you. They may even help with the odd household chore, such as mowing the lawn. Remember, not all the help friends provide needs to be directly related to your loved one – every contribution can free up some of your precious time and give you a break.

Share the highs and lows

We all know there are highs and lows in caring for a loved one with incontinence. There are moments of awkwardness, moments of humour, and moments when you realise that providing the best care possible is an enormously gratifying privilege. Sharing these things will help and encourage others in a similar situation, while also enabling you to retain a sense of balance. Set up a weekly or monthly get-together with family and friends that help with caring. By sharing and discussing the highs and lows, you can create a strong support network, enabling you to let off steam in an understanding environment.

Channel anger and frustration

The person you are caring for may become frustrated with themselves and take it out on you. If so, the thing to remember is that they never chose to be dependent on you. It’s been forced on them and it can get them down too. Try and direct your anger at your loved one’s medical condition rather than the human being trying to cope with it. Sometimes bringing in a third person can help diffuse the tension and share the burden.

Write it down

One of the oldest and best therapies for managing highs and lows is to write it all down. Perhaps that’s why diary writing is such an ancient tradition. Okay, after a long hard day, you’re probably far too tired to write a novel. However, once a week why not try writing a list of the things that went well for you and those that didn’t. Look at the good things and think how you can build on them for the following week. Then check the bad ones and see if you can minimise them. Put your own health first.

No question about it, a good carer needs to be fairly fit, so recognise when you’re feeling under the weather, and take steps to stay healthy. It’s easy to neglect things like your diet when looking after a loved one – time slips away and meals are rushed. So try and get your three solid meals a day. You’ll have more energy and feel much better within yourself.

A break makes all the difference

If things get on top of you, don’t just blame yourself. Take time to adjust to your new responsibilities and all the new ways of doing things. In particular, regular breaks from care are essential. Give yourself a pat on the back for doing an excellent job and, most importantly, take a break now and then – you deserve it!

A breath of fresh air

It may sound like something your grandmother used to say but there really is no substitute for a bit of fresh air (weather allowing). Even a 5 minute walk around the block can lift the spirits and put things back in perspective. Try and get some time outside in the daylight every day to boost your spirits (and your vitamin D levels). And remember too that the same applies for your loved one, so if they’re up to being outside every once in a while, encourage it.

Pamper yourself

Try and give yourself a daily pampering moment. Every morning, set a time of day for your own indulgence – something to look forward to. It might be savouring that chocolate biscuit at 3pm, having a glass of wine at the end of the day, or soaking in a long, hot bath. Whatever it is, plan it, stick to it and enjoy it.

Celebrate what you do

You work so hard, yet how often do you think about all the good you do – the comfort, care and dignity you bring to your loved one? It is easy to get caught up in the routine and forget this. So try to remember you should be proud of what you do. Carers are a special group who support the very fabric of society. Sometimes you, your family and your friends need reminding of this.

Get expert advice from professional organisations

There may already be adult day care centres or healthcare organisations in your area. If so, they could give you the chance to leave your loved one in caring hands so you can take a break for a few hours. Another advantage is that your loved one gets a chance to socialise with the other attendees. Many of these organisations offer transportation, run regular group activities such as day trips, and prepare snacks. They may even provide a ‘meals on wheels’ service.

Other useful services include pharmacies that deliver for free and some schools, community colleges or youth groups that have initiatives for students/members. If they’re looking to lend a hand in the community then they could be helping you.

Professional carers are available in most areas to visit your home and look after your loved one. They’ll give you time to catch up with a friend or just treat yourself. If you’d like to go away for an extended break, you could investigate care homes that offer a limited period of stay.

There are many organisations listed in our Useful Links section, or you can check with your local health authority what support services there are in your area.

Get in touch with other carers

Look up a support group and you should soon meet others looking after loved ones in your area. Sharing your experiences with people who are going through a similar situation will help keep you confident – and you’ll also pick up valuable tips and advice.

Check your entitlement to help

You may be entitled to help and support from your health service. If so, you’ll need to contact your health service.

Keep on learning

Keeping up to speed with new ideas, products and techniques doesn’t just ensure that you keep making the best choices for you and your loved one. It also helps keep you connected with the wider caring community.