5 Important tips I’ve learned from being a Carer
Hi, my name is Jonathan and I’m a husband and carer for my wife who has multiple life-threatening and chronic health conditions.
I was asked to write a blog post for Carers Week, which I’ve never really done before so I wasn’t sure what to write about. However, after thinking about it I decided to write about some tips I’ve learned since becoming a carer that have helped me with my responsibilities and that I hope in some way will be of help to other carers too.
- Don’t get confused between being a carer and being you.
This is probably the first big dilemma I had when I started taking care of my wife full-time. When I transitioned from work to caring I struggled to understand who I was because I took on my role as a carer like it was a job, which unfortunately is entirely the wrong way to view it! However, I now understand caring to be helping out a loved one and not a job. I am myself first, husband second and a carer afterwards. Being a carer shouldn’t change who you are or define you as person. If you can view caring in this way then it will actually help you keep balanced in life and be a better carer as a result.
- Don’t be afraid to accept support.
When I first started taking care of my wife full time I mistakenly thought I could do everything on my own and didn’t need any help. But my wife thought otherwise and could see that I was eventually getting stressed and struggling and so she decided to get some carers in to help us. I was skeptical at first but soon realised that the help was very useful and it allowed me some much needed breathing space. Now I don’t know what we’d do without the help we get as it means my wife is cared for during part of the day so that I can do other things that I need to do or spend some time for myself, enjoying hobbies, going to the gym or just taking time out to relax. It can be hard to admit that you need support but in my experience you should never be afraid to ask or accept help when you need it.
- You have to be organised.
I must admit that I’ve never been the most organised person but if becoming a carer has taught me anything it’s how to be more organised. When you’re caring for someone who depends on you to help them organise appointments, sort medication, provide personal care, manage finances and other things on top of looking after a house then life can get very busy. Suffice to say it took me a while to get myself more organised and into a better routine but now I find life much easier to cope with because I know what is going on and I’m more in control, which then helps me to care for my wife better.
- You need to make time for yourself and take breaks.
Now I know that this is easier said than done for a lot of carers as their time is almost always taken up with caring and other related activities. However, making time to care for yourself is important as it will make your relationships stronger and healthier and make sure that you don’t burn out. Finding time for yourself to do things you enjoy though doesn’t mean you love the person you care for any less, it means recognising that you are human and need to take breaks too, it also means that you will have new and interesting things to talk about with the person you care for and others that isn’t just related to care work. Personally, I was only able to take a break from caring when we started having carers come in to care for my wife during the day. It allowed me some time each day to go off and do something for myself, even if it was just to go to a local coffee shop and read a book. Taking a break might be difficult in your circumstances but it is important for your own wellbeing and also that of the person you care for that you find to take a break and refresh so that you can continue caring and not burn yourself out.
- Don’t isolate yourself.
Loneliness is a big problem for many carers. In fact, a recent study by Carers UK suggests that carers are 7 times more likely to be lonelier than the general public. It’s a sobering statistic but not really that surprising, especially since I’ve experienced times where I have felt lonely and depressed. It’s so easy when you are wrapped up with caring to feel lonely. Before caring you may have had a social life and spent a lot of time with friends and family, but now unfortunately you’re not able to spend as much time doing those things and your social life can become almost nonexistent. Personally I also found that I wasn’t able to rely on friends and family as much for support because I was worried that they wouldn’t understand my new circumstances, which made me feel even more isolated.
However it’s not all doom and gloom as there are ways to make sure you don’t get isolated. I found being able to talk to other carers a good start as being able to open up and share with someone who knows what I might be going through is a great way of relieving any pressure and stress that I might have. Also making time for myself to go out and interact with other people, perhaps asking to meet up with a friend for a coffee and have a chat or go and play a sport occasionally with a group of friends really beneficial. It doesn’t have to be lots of activities but just enough to make you feel a part of a social group again.
If you are also a carer then I hope these tips have been of some help to you and have perhaps inspired you to seek the help and support that you need. I also hope that this post will have helped others learn more about what it’s like to be a carer and the challenges it brings. If you’d like to find out more about caring then please check out the charity Carers UK who support all carers in the uk with advice on various topics related to caring and campaign for carers rights.