Why you must take care of your own health too
Looking after your own health doesn’t have to mean neglecting the person you’re caring for. Here’s how to make it happen
Could this be you?
As a carer you always want to do your best and you know how important it is for you to stay fit and healthy, but
– The person you’re caring for has to come first
– If they need something done, you’re usually the only person who can do it
– You don’t have the time or energy to think about yourself
Did you know? 65 per cent of older carers (aged 60-94) have health problems themselves.
If you’re already encouraging your loved one to eat a healthy diet it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to do the same! Start with a filling, nutritious breakfast, eat regular healthy snacks – such as cereal bars, fruit and yoghurt, and go for Mediterranean-style main meals which are low on red meat but contain fish, lots of whole grains, vegetables, nuts and olive oil. Consider fresh meal delivery services if you’re short on time.
Look after your back
Many carers find they develop back problems as a result of lifting, carrying and other physical tasks involved in looking after a person with dementia.
Have you been shown how to lift safely? There are certain techniques you need to know which could make lifting easier or ask your GP, practice nurse or local carers group for as much advice and support as possible.
Have you had an assessment? You may be entitled to extra practical help at certain times of the day or week, or financial help to make alterations to your home. Ask your GP to refer you to the local occupational therapy unit for assessment.
Are you standing tall? Poor posture can put extra strain on your back and make back pain even worse, it can also cause muscle, joint and disc damage. So don’t hunch your shoulders or slump in your chair. When you’re standing, keep your back straight and your head facing forward.
Yes, we know you’re always on the go and are exhausted by the end of each day, but a small amount of the right kind of activity could actually increase your energy levels, improve your flexibility, lift your mood and make life easier to cope with.
Be realistic: A 15 minute walk is enough to get started – try to have one every day. If you can manage a swim, bike ride or a fitness/exercise class once or twice a week, that’s great. Consider other activities too, such as yoga, Pilates or tai-chi which could also help you to relax.
Keep your appointments
It’s all too easy for a carer to cancel a doctor’s appointments because ‘something came up’ and the person with dementia needed them at home. However, this can be pretty dangerous and won’t, in the long run, do your loved one any favours either. After all, who will look after them if you get really ill and have to go into hospital? So make sure you attend all GP, nurse, hospital, dental, osteopathy and podiatry appointments, go for regular screening tests when you’re invited, and consider taking a Flu jab if you’re offered one.
Tip: This is a necessity
The next time you’re tempted to cancel an appointment, tell yourself, ‘this is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity.’
Listen to your body
Is there something you really need to sort out but keep putting off? A worrying lump, pain, headache, cough or bowel problem needs to be investigated – and the sooner the better.
Tip: Remember the oxygen mask theory
We’ve all listened to the safety talk on board a plane and been told to put on our own oxygen mask before trying to help anyone else. The same applies when you’re a carer. If you don’t look after your own health first, how will you be able to look after theirs.
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