Looking after someone else shouldn’t mean you neglect your own health and well-being needs.
There is evidence that carers often put off their own health needs due to lack of time – they may ignore signs that something is wrong and miss health checks and medical appointments.
If you are looking after someone else, it’s important for you to be well – physically and emotionally – and for you to get support too.
Carer’s needs assessment
The law now recognises that carers have their own support needs and have a right to have those needs assessed.
Your carer’s needs assessment is your opportunity to say what support and care you are prepared to give, and what help you need to ensure your own well-being.
For example, you might wish to combine your caring responsibilities with paid employment, regular exercise or a return to education.
You might just want a short break to read a book, go to a football match or enjoy a film.
Your physical health
Caring can have significant effects on your health; for example, carers are at particular risk of back problems.
Make an effort to attend routine health and medical checks so that any health issues can be resolved early on.
If you cannot leave the person you care for alone, you can ask for respite care to attend medical appointments.
Make sure your GP knows you are a carer and ask for it to be noted on your medical records. This might help with appointments being flexible etc. If you care for someone who is housebound, you can ask for a home visit. You will also be entitled to a free annual flu jab.
Carers UK has good health and nutrition advice for carers.
Your emotional well-being
Looking after someone you love can be very rewarding – it can also be demanding, exhausting and isolating.
If your caring responsibilities are making you feel upset, stressed, panicky or depressed, it’s important to see help. The local council must not assume that you are able and/or willing to continue caring for the other person.
You may wish to continue caring but recognise that you need more support. If you have not been offered a carer’s needs assessment, ask for one. If you already have a support plan, but need more time off caring, ask to have your needs re-assessed.
Caring for someone can take its toll on the other relationships in your life – with your partner, other family members and wider social circles. Carers UK examines how relationships might change as a result of caring.
Support from other carers
No-one understands how stressful the caring role can be more than a fellow carer. Find out if there is a carers’ support group or carers’ centre in your area.
If you find it difficult to get along to a support group, the Carers Trust hosts online discussion boards, live chat, a Wednesday evening group and even monthly e-levenses.