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Tips for Carers by Sophie Harvey

Posted By HMSA Social Media Coordinator, July 28, 2018
Being a carer can be tough. It’s hard to see someone you love suffer. I have been in the situation of both being a carer and a patient, so I have experience from both sides. I have learnt some things along the way and these are the things that I have found most helpful for me. 
One of them, is having something to just take my mind off caring for a bit, a way to recharge. For instance, a distraction like a hobby, sport, seeing a friend, or disappearing into a good book. Carers take on a lot of responsibility, so I think enjoying and engaging in things that can take my mind off caring for a while is important. I am of more use to the person I am caring for when I am recharged, rather than when I am exhausted or emotionally drained.
Another thing I have found useful for me is researching the condition. It can be scary seeing a loved one in pain and not knowing why it was happening or what I could do about it. However, researching the condition and understanding why things were happening and what sort of management techniques there are, helped take some of the distress and worry away from the situation.  
It was also vital for me to know that when the person I care for is grumpy or angry, the majority of time they are not angry or grumpy because of me. They are grumpy or angry because of the symptoms. I try to know when it’s the person talking and when it’s the symptoms talking.
Similarly, even though the illness is a big part of their lives, I try to see the illness and the person I care for, separately. I know that they are still just a person and try to talk about things other than illness and quality spend time together. Even if it’s just watching sitcoms together. Being a carer can be very serious, but I try to remember to laugh and not take all things so seriously all the time. As corny and as cheesy as it sounds, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’. I try to remember that and to spend quality time with the person I care for despite the illness.
When the person I care for is going through a rough time I tend to worry about them. However, when that happens I try to ask myself ‘What can I do about it?’. It’s a way of reducing the amount of worrying I do because if I know I have done everything in my control to help them, I am doing all I can. I can’t cure them but I can care for them. Sometimes the answer to my question ‘What can I do about it?’ simply means I could send them a message with a joke in it to cheer them up before a medical procedure, or make them a cuppa, or give them a hug when they’re having a rough day.
Other times when I don’t know what to do, I ask ‘How can I help?’. Even if the answer comes back ‘Just leaving me to rest’ asking that question makes me feel like I am doing everything within my power and control to help them, and that reduces the amount of worry I have. I am doing the best I can.
Listening is one of the most powerful and useful things my carer does for me. Just knowing they’re there for me makes a massive difference. Equally, when I put my carer hat on, having someone to listen to me and talk things through with is helpful in the same way, too.
Knowing that it doesn’t have to all be on my shoulders has also been important for me. Asking for help has been vital. Whether that’s asking for help from friends, family, neighbours, or professionals. Also, simplifying life a bit like occasionally, doing online grocery shopping, buying pre-cut veg, ready-made food, or asking someone to help with housework can help to take the strain off for a bit. It doesn’t always have to be all on my shoulders and I can ask for help if need be.
In addition, not being afraid to talk things through with the person I’m caring for is important. I used to avoid it because I didn’t want to worry them but just because they’re ill doesn’t mean I can’t talk to them about things. They know the situation and can help.
Letting at least one person at school or work know that I’m a carer has also been useful. This is because if something came up for example, if I missed a deadline and required an extension because I had to do something carer related, then they knew why. It saved me from having to explain it all from the beginning when something cropped up.
In conclusion, know that you are not alone, you’re doing your best, remember to laugh, enjoy life and ask for help if you need it. Also, keep going, you are doing so well.

The information provided by the HMSA should not take the place of advice and guidance from your own health-care providers. Material in this site is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes in your treatment plan. Articles were last reviewed by our Medical Advisors as being correct and up to date on 5th June 2004.

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