Caring can be a rewarding experience but it can also be very tiring, placing demands on your physical and emotional energy. As a carer you need to be as healthy as possible. When you are simply coping day to day and responding to the needs of others, it is easy to forget your own health needs.
Research has shown conclusively that caring for others can have a major impact on your health and wellbeing. Carers are significantly more likely to be in poor health than people without caring responsibilities.
A carer’s lifestyle is frequently restricted and many carers can and do become mentally and physically exhausted by their caring role, and this can cause their own health to break down. There are physical injuries to be aware of, especially your back if you are lifting and moving someone. However the main health risks come from the worry, lack of sleep and depression that caring can bring.
Also, carers often have to fight and battle for the support they get and this wears you down. All this can lead to high blood pressure and stress-related illness.
Carers often put their own needs last. But remember – the better your physical and emotional wellbeing, the better you will be able to cope with the demands of caring. It can also be very positive for the person you care for. This is why it is important for you to take stock of your own health.[panel]
The following NHS England guide provides information and advice on how to stay healthy whilst caring for family members or friends:
Accepting help enables carers to become refreshed, avoids burn out and can give the person who is cared for the stimulation and pleasure of other people’s company.
Let your GP know that you are a carer.
Your GP practice may offer Health Checks for carers. If your GP practice is not one of them you could still benefit from other health programmes provided by the NHS. Everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 is invited (once every 5 years) to have a health check. It aims to prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. If you have not had a health check within the last year please ask at your GP’s surgery.
Also, the NHS offers free Flu Vaccination to carers, as it is recongised that due to caring 24/7, stress and exhaustion, carers’ immune systems might be weakened. Therefore, free flu vaccination is one way to maintain a carer’s health.
There is no need to feel guilty about accepting help.
Carers need to be healthy to care.
What to expect from your doctor
It is important to have a good open relationship with your doctor. Tell your GP that you are in a caring role. GP practices have systems in place to record this information on a Carers Register. This information is beneficial to both you and the GP practice, e.g. a GP practice might use its Carers Register to invite carers for a flu vaccination or a health check.
At the same time carers know the people they care for better than anyone else. This knowledge can be extremely useful for doctors and other health professionals in planning patient care, and also in identifying problems that may require intervention.
Here you can download a copy of the General Medical Council’s “What to expect from your doctor” guide, which explains how you can help to create a partnership with your doctor. Much of it is simple common sense, and following it should help you get the most out of your time with your doctor for both yourself and the person you care for.
Staying health is important for everyone, but especially important for you – the carer – and the person you care for. If you feel that your caring responsibilities are starting to have a negative impact on your health, seek help. You might benefit from extra support with caring tasks, respite service, counselling, training or emotional support.
Brent Carers Centre offers free advice and information that will help you find the support that suits you best. Our extensive range of services include emotional support, financial and debt advice, short breaks and leisure programmes, a young carers service, training for carers and opportunities to meet with other carers.
For example, we offer a range of therapies for carers to help maintain your wellbeing. These include relaxation therapies, yoga and massage. You will find details of these and other activities on our Events page.
NHS Brent Self Care
NHS Brent CCG’s web-site “Brent Self Care” provides advice and information related to maintaining your health and wellbeing. This includes advice on various health conditions (including diabetes and managing pain), as well as providing guidance on diet, exercise and nutrition.
Further details of this and other similar help available can be found on our Local Services page.
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