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Impact of being a carer

THE IMPACTS OF BEING A CARER

In the uk, there are around 6.5 million carers that care for someone in need of assistance or support. This could be due to an illness, disability, mental health problems, injury support, or simply needing assistance after recovering from surgery. Being a private carer can be both a rewarding and enjoyable experience, and many people get a great deal of joy from caring for someone other than themselves, knowing that they could make a difference to their life. Improving the quality of life for someone who is unable to do so themselves, can make the carer feel valued and helpful.

For carers, there can be an array of benefits or rewards, such as:

  • Facing new challenges and overcoming them
  • Strengthening your relationship with the care recipient and knowing how much they appreciate your help
  • Having the opportunity for personal growth and developing new skills
  • The satisfaction of knowing you are helping someone better their life
  • Receiving the acknowledgement from their family and friends

On the other hand, there can be moments where it can become overwhelming, whether you are a hired private carer or caring for a loved one. When an individual is diagnosed with a medical condition or disability, or is undergoing an operation and needs aftercare, it is completely normal for them to feel vulnerable which could result in having more focus on them from other people, particularly their carer. As a private carer, you could be providing an array of different support and assistance such as emotional support, helping to cope with mental illness, personal care or medical assistance. However, providing these levels of care could eventually have an impact on the carer, as well as their family and friends. As time goes on, it could feel as if all the focus is on the person being cared for, whilst the impact of the carer is not being recognised. It could be easy to assume the carer is coping, or that do need any help or support themselves.

HOW CAN BEING A CARER AFFECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Throughout the process of caring for someone, a carer could start to feel some emotional and mental health impacts. Depending on the level of care, some carers could feel overwhelmed by all the duties they need to fulfil. For example, if the carer is caring for someone who may have a certain medical condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, this could have a bigger emotional impact on them in comparison to just being a companion for someone.

It is common for a carer to feel overlooked and may not have time to look after themselves as they always tend to put a lot of time and effort into helping the care recipient, and put their needs first, which other people may not understand. This could result in the person feeling isolated can affect their emotional wellbeing.

No matter how professional, experienced or trained a carer might be, it is always possible for them to have emotional impacts, such as:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Resentment

It is completely normal for carers to find it difficult to talk to someone about their effects or feelings about being a carer. They may be reluctant to share this with the person they care for as they do not want to add more difficulty to that person’s life. They may even find it challenging to share this with their family members as they may not understand what you are going through as carer. It is expected from other people to believe there is nothing for you to worry about, or you should not be focusing on your own needs.

As a carer, you may be in a situation where you had little choice about taking on this role or that you think you may be judged if you start talking about your feelings. However, it is important to understand that having these types of feelings and concerns is completely normal and natural for a carer. When going through situations such as this, a carer needs to be kind to themselves and keep thinking positively, this can help you cope better with your emotional feelings.

If you start to recognise signs of depression, anxiety or stress, then it would be recommended to speak to your local GP, health care or social care professional for more help and advice. If you are feeling down, it would also be a good idea to someone that is very close to you, for example a spouse or close friend. This is could be small, but effective way of letting your emotions and feelings out in the open, and not having bottled up inside you. If you keep your feelings locked inside, this can eventually make it worse, which could result to you being depressed.

WHAT YOU CAN DO AS A CARER TO COPE BETTER

Carers have a very rewarding job, but at the same time it can also be a very demanding experience. Every carer is different, depending on their personality, experience, qualifications and training, the impact on the carer would vary. Regardless of this, every carer should make the time to look after their own health and wellbeing.

It is common to feel unnatural when it comes to thinking about yourself, but it is hugely important that you do so. It is crucial that for you to look after both your physical and emotional wellbeing so this will not result in you having any negative impacts.

It is understandable that carer may be juggling multiple things within their life, but it is important for you to know how to balance work and personal life, and give equal time for both. You could start to find it challenging and difficult to cope with this, as well as focusing on yourself and your health.

However, there are many things you could do to improve your own quality of life and make your experience as a carer better, such as:

  • The most important action to take is making sure you get enough rest. Sleep deprivation can have negative impacts on your overall health, and could possibly increase the risk of you getting depressed.
  • Eating healthy meals and making sure you are getting the right vitamins and nutrients to fill you with energy. It is very important to not skip meals and eat regularly at the right times. Ensure your diet includes a range of fruit and vegetables.
  • Drinking plenty of water! Lack of water in the body can lead to dehydration, which can result in a lack of energy. You want to make sure you are keeping hydrated when doing your duties as a carer.
  • Keeping active! Dong regular exercise can have may health benefits. This does not have to consist of you going to the gym everyday, it could be as simple as going for a walk in the morning or afternoon, or even cycle to work.

Even if it may seem difficult in the beginning, you have to put yourself first. As a carer, you have a tendency to stop caring about yourself and only caring about the person you are caring for. You need to stop that. You won’t be able to cope with life if you forget about yourself and your feelings. Here are some tips if you are struggling to cope with being a carer:

  • Simply look after your general health. If you notice your health is degrading or you are becoming unwell when you’re a carer, take these symptoms into consideration. Do not ignore
  • Socialise. Social interaction is one of the key elements to living a healthy life, especially when you are a carer. Being socially excluded can actually lead to dementia in later life. Try to meet a friend at least once a week, for one hour. If you cannot find time to do even this as a carer, keep in touch by email, phone or even better, video call
  • Learn a relaxation technique. Learning how to unwind when you’re a carer will help you feel invigorated and more rested too. Most relaxation techniques, such as yoga or mindfulness can be practiced for as little as 5 minutes a day.

HOW CAN YOU MANAGE YOUR ROLE AS A CARER?

Before considering a role as a carer, It is highly important to make sure you are prepared and have certain personality traits to become an excellent and well-performed caregiver. A carer would have many attributes such as being reliable, patient, passionate and the ability to multitask. You are bound to find yourself in a wide range of situations, and knowing how to cope and manage these situations is an important quality.

Every carer will react differently depending on the situation, which means they will be dealt with in a variety of ways. Knowing how and when to react in emergency situations is crucial, but it is also important for you personally to know how to cope when a situation does come about. For example, if the person you are caring for has had a fall, then as a carer you will need to be aware of how to position yourself and lift them up, without injuring yourself.

If the care recipient is living with conditions such as dementia, then knowing how to manage mood swings and changes in behaviour is an important trait to have. Before taking on the role, you will need to think about whether or not you will be able to cope with this, and know how to communicate with them as their mood deteriorates.

Holding your ground and knowing how to cope with the challenges that can come with caring for someone with dementia is essential. But it is also important that you do not forget your own health and wellbeing also. Make sure you do not work on your breaks, for you own emotional state you need to make sure you take the breaks you are entitled to. Every individual is different, so some may need longer breaks than others.

No matter when, take the time to ensure your health is well looked after.

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