Taking care of yourself is your most important step as a caregiver. Caregiving can be stressful, even in the best of situations. Here are some important things you need to find time to do—just for yourself.
- Contact your local social services department for a carers assessment.
During the assessment, you’ll have a chance to talk about the care you provide and its impact on your life. The assessor will discuss the support you can access as well as any benefits you are entitled too. They will also look at whether other services could help you.
- Get some exercise.
You may feel better and sleep better if you exercise. One way is to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. Experts say to aim for at least 2½ hours of moderate activity a week.
- Eat healthy meals and snacks.
When you are busy giving care, it may seem easier to eat fast food than to prepare healthy meals. But healthy meals are easy to prepare, and healthy eating will give you more energy to carry you through each day.
- Get enough sleep.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, take a nap during the day. Plan to get at least one full night’s rest each week.
- Make time for an activity you enjoy.
For example, make time to read, listen to music, paint, do crafts, or play an instrument—even if you can only do it for a few minutes a day. If you like to go to church activities or take classes, ask a friend or family member to stay with your loved one for an hour or two once or twice a week so you can do those things.
- Get regular medical check-ups.
This includes dental check-ups. Even if you have always been healthy, you need to stay healthy. Know about the signs of depression and watch for them not only in the person you are caring for but also in yourself. If you have feelings of lingering sadness or hopelessness, talk with your doctor.
- Get the support you need.
Helping a loved one with health problems can be emotionally difficult. If you are having trouble coping with your feelings, seek advice and counselling from family members, trained mental health professionals, or spiritual advisors.
Contact CarersUK (www.carersuk.org) or AgeUK (www.ageuk.org.uk) for further advice and support