When you're caring for someone with dementia, it is very easy to ignore your own needs and to forget to look after yourself too
“Caring for a person with dementia can be both rewarding and challenging. The needs of the person may often come before your own and this can mean that you struggle to manage everything. However, it can be easier to cope if you look after yourself properly. While you might feel that this is not always possible, it is important for both you and the person with dementia.”
The Alzheimer’s Society
It's much easier to cope if you look after your own health and wellbeing, and there is lots of support available. Caring in general can be a positive experience as you may learn new skills or build on existing ones. Your role may strengthen your relationship, after all you are supporting someone who is important to you. However, it is also both physically and mentally exhausting. Carers often talk about increased isolation, stress, conflicting emotions and sometimes depression. You have your own physical and mental health needs.
The type of support you need will vary depending on your individual circumstances. Here at Carers in Bedfordshire we offer a variety of support routes from 1:1 home visits, drop in Memory Gateway groups providing information and advice to weekly Carers Rest meetings where dementia carers can meet, socialise, chat and play games.
You may find that just talking about your situation with other people helps. This can be especially true if the people you talk to have experience of caring for a person with dementia. You can get different types of support from different places.
Your relationship with the person with dementia may change and this can have an effect on how you feel towards them. It is important to be able to talk about these feelings with someone you trust. You should not be afraid to say how you feel - it is natural to be confused, upset, angry or resentful at times. You may find that there are some aspects of caring you can manage easily, while others prove more difficult. Everyone will experience caring in their own way.
Taking a break
It can be difficult to find time for yourself when you are caring for a person with dementia. When you do manage to get time to yourself, you may want to use it to catch up with other tasks such as housework or managing finances. However, it is important to take breaks and continue to do things that you enjoy so that you don't become overwhelmed. This could include having some 'time out' during the day to do a crossword or go for a coffee, having a break (if necessary with someone else looking after your loved one or when they are at a day centre), or going on holiday. You may find our Dementia Befriending Service can help you .
By taking regular breaks you may find yourself better able to support yourself and the person you care for. It can be hard to take a break from caring and you may feel guilty, but all carers deserve a break and you will feel better for it.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, you may want or need support at some point. Carers who have little social support are more likely to experience stress and depression. You will benefit from different types of help and support, ranging from practical care to give you time off caring, to having someone to talk to about your feelings and concerns. Not every type of support suits every carer and there may be an element of trial and error in finding the right services for you.
To find out more about the support Carers in Bedfordshire can offer you, please take a look at our Dementia Services
You may also find the following organisations helpful:
- The Alzheimer's Society
- Tibbs Dementia Foundation
- Age UK Bedfordshire
- Disability Resource Centre - Bedfordshire
- Free counselling for dementia carers – Relate Bedfordshire and Luton
Apply online here to register with us.