Anyone at anytime can become a carer. Whether caring begins gradually or suddenly, it can be a whirlwind of new knowledge, skills and changes to your life. Caring for someone can be incredibly rewarding. It can also be challenging and all-consuming. Here are 10 tips to help you in your caring role.

  1. Recognise your role as carer.

Even if you don’t like the word or what it means. Using the label can open doors to support and resources. Grieve for the losses, focus on positive times as they arise and make good memories.

  1. Educate yourself.

Learn about your person’s condition and research available resources. It’s also good to learn how to communicate effectively with doctors and other health workers.

  1. Accept help.

When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do to help, such as cook a meal, run an errand, or sit with your person.

  1. Develop an emergency plan.

Emergencies happen when you least expect them. Make an emergency care plan so you know your person will be looked after. Include general information about the person you care for; their medicines; what they usually eat and drink; what care they need; emergency contacts, including family and health professionals; and a list of the regular support services they receive.

  1. Look after yourself.

Many carers put their own needs last, and tend to suffer physical and mental ill-health due to caring. It is important to keep yourself healthy and make your own well-being a priority, not just for you, but so you can provide the best possible care for your person. Make sure you get enough rest, eat properly, drink plenty of water, learn to relax, and know manual handling techniques to avoid a risk of back injury through incorrect lifting.  Seek help for your own mental and physical health when you need to.

  1. Take a break.

Caring can be hard work and stressful. It’s normal to need a break – no one can do it all themselves. Look into respite care to give you time to rejuvenate and focus on other parts of your life. Having a break can make all the difference!

  1. Trust your instincts.

Most of the time they’ll lead you in the right direction. Most often you know your person better than anyone else does. It’s ok to stand up for yourself and your person.

  1. Share your feelings and experience with others.

Carers can often feel alone and unsupported. Meet other carers for support and advice, such as joining a support group or an online carer community. If you have family around, have family meetings to talk things over. There is a great strength in knowing you are not alone.

  1. Take each day as it comes.

As a carer, you may have many different roles and deal with very complex or challenging needs, all of which can feel overwhelming. Taking each day as it comes can help things feel more manageable and even allow small goals to be set and accomplished. It allows you to focus on the here and now with your person, rather than worrying about what might be down the track.

  1. Allow yourself to have a bad day.

When you become a carer, you may feel you have to be a superhero. It’s normal however to lose patience or feel like you’re not doing a great job. Give yourself credit though, not guilt. You’re human and doing the best you can, often dealing with some very complex issues. Acknowledge the feelings, forgive yourself, and move on.

By Louise Jessop, Carer and student Social Work