Written by Active Minds on Thursday the 10th of October 2019.
Caring for someone living with dementia can take a toll on your own wellbeing but it is important to look after yourself in order to be in a better position to continue to care for the person on their dementia journey. For a carer of someone living with dementia, there may be a range of difficult emotions which you have to deal with and often you will put the needs of the person you are caring for above your own needs. For this reason, it is common that carers will not prioritise their own mental and physical health however it is important to take time to look after yourself.
There can be many things which affect carers in their time caring for a person living with dementia such as; carers guilt, depression and social isolation. It is important that as a carer, you take the time to acknowledge how you are feeling, and why you may be feeling this way. Once you admit that you may need assistance, you can begin to make the necessary adjustments to cope better; when you are actively caring for your own wellbeing, you will be better equipped to care for a person living with dementia.
If you are feeling like your own health and wellbeing is taking a toll as part of being a carer, there are a few things you can do which could help.
Taking a Break
When caring for a person living with dementia, it can be difficult to find time for yourself and often wanting time alone can be accompanied by feelings of guilt however it is important you do take time for yourself for your own wellbeing.
Taking breaks from caring and doing something you enjoy, can really help to be able to manage your role as a carer. Breaks allow you to recuperate and feel ready to continue your caring role. There are ways to include short breaks within your caring routine, whether it be through having a friend or relative care for the person or for a local authority or charity to help you out.
Similarly, it is important to ask for help if you need it. Sometimes, as a carer it can be difficult to ask for help; you may feel that caring is your role and be discouraged to admit you need help. However, caring for another person can quickly take its toll if it is your sole responsibility to do so.
It is important that you know you have help available should you need it. Speak to friends and family who may be willing to help you out; whether it be helping with housework or jobs which you may not have time for, or helping you out for an hour or two whilst you get some time off. You can also ask your local authority or charity for help should you feel you need it. There is no shame in admitting you need help; it will benefit both you and the person you are caring for.
A common concern for those caring for a person living with dementia is social isolation; dedicating your life to care for another person can make it difficult to socialise with friends and family but there are a range of dementia friendly events which you can attend. Check out the events in your local area to see if there is anything suitable; attending these events is beneficial for both carers and those they are caring for, it allows you both to socialise with people who are having a similar experience and helps to remind you, you are not alone.
Putting Health First
A common concern among carers is that they are not putting their health first. It is important to have regular check ups with your GP if you are feeling unwell physically or mentally. By taking care of your own wellbeing you will be in a better position to care for your loved one.
There are many different things which can affect carer wellbeing, and also many different ways to ensure you are cared for too. Local charities or events may be able to assist you in ensuring you are feeling your best, and help to give you some time to yourself.