Shirley Hagen a Northumberland carer, who looks after her mam has written an article on how important it is for carers to take care of themselves too. We think it’s fantastic and full of very helpful practical tips. Take a look below….
Looking after yourself as a carer
Looking after yourself when caring for someone is of paramount importance, not only to the carer but also to the person you are supporting. In my own experience of caring for my mam I would like to share with you all a few tips and ideas that have worked for me in the past and the present as mam is now in a care home and I still practise these ideas. They have helped reduce the pressure of what many will agree, can be quite stressful and challenging although it is indeed a valued and highly important role. Therefore I would like to keep this as upbeat and straightforward as possible.
1. Keep an eye on your diet. Eat as well as you can. What you eat plays a huge role in your well-being.
2. Don’t forget to keep hydrated throughout the day. This is crucial to how your mind and thought pattern performs. Keep the little grey matter well oiled.
3. If your sleeping pattern is interrupted this can be tricky. Good sound sleep is vital to function properly. If this is a problem for whatever reason try to take cat-naps through the day to help prevent overtiredness.
4. Now comes the (E) word yes! Exercise. I can hear most of you groaning now. No I am not talking Zumba classes or hang gliding! Well only if you’re up to it, why not! No, seriously exercise can take many forms. A gentle stroll in the fresh air helps clear negative thoughts. You may be in a position to push someone out in a wheelchair. This is brilliant for toning up the arms (Good for the old bingo wings!).
Please check with your G.P. beforehand if exercise routines are on the menu.
5. Surround yourself with pretty objects however small. A vase of fresh flowers, plants, favourite photographs or ornaments all help to give off an aura of peace and tranquillity.
6. Follow your own interests to help keep your mind alert and positive e.g. puzzles, reading, computer work, board games, crafts, music, a coffee and a chat with a friend or neighbour or simply chilling out quietly with a cuppa. However short a time you can spare it still counts. Do whatever “floats your boat” or if you happen to be in the bath with a cuppa whatever “floats your loofah!”
7. Taking care of your appearance will lift you. It helps to give you confidence.
8. Try to make the person you care for feel valued and appreciated. Build their self-confidence, tell them how nice or well they look. Comment on a topic from the newspaper or TV ask them for their opinion, not forgetting to complement their input however small this might be. If their memory is failing you could say something on the lines of “Oh I have forgotten that, I have a memory like a sieve!” and laugh it off. It may make them feel as if it’s not just them who cannot remember things. I refer to this as reversing the roles. I still adopt this technique with my own mam and will continue for as long as I am able to. It puts them in the “driving seat” the feel good factor which in turn can make you feel better. Everybody is different though so be careful not to put any pressure on them. Make them feel at ease.
9. Ask them for advice on a minor concern or problem. Keeping it very minor. They may feel pleased that they have actually been able to advise you. Give them a sense of usefulness. Once again reverse tactics.
10. Finally, an exercise which may sound strange but it works for me. I hope it does for you to.
Recall and jot down in a small note pad occasions that have made you smile or laugh. The more you have the better then it won’t become stale. Keep your notepad accessible and refer to it whenever you feel down a good giggle does wonders.
Well, that’s a few suggestions. I do hope that some will prove useful to you all.
Shirley Anne Hagen