So often the spouse, partner or maybe daughter who is doing the bulk of the caring gets forgotten somewhere between arranging and making the Doctor’s appointments and doing the shopping, or after the medication has been collected and some new outings have been arranged.
The nightmare scenario is when the carer can no longer cope with the caring, or also needs care.
When is a carer not a carer?
Most people don’t see themselves as the carer – they are the husband, wife, partner, friend, daughter/son etc. If you think of a carer as someone who arrives in a rustly uniform with an upside down watch on their lapel, and not you or your Dad caring for your Mum, then you’re not very likely to seek out or respond to information for “the carer”.
Looking after the carer must be as much a priority as looking after the one being cared for. It can become a very lonely business as the main (only) carer as well as emotionally fraught and physically exhausting.
Caring isn’t just love; it’s relentless and unbearable
Caring for someone who is frail, not very mobile and not particularly healthy or happy is full-time, 24/7 and relentless; if someone is living with dementia and is unpredictable, difficult or worse, then caring can be almost unbearable; as our friend and grief counsellor Julia Samuel OBE says, “old age is awash with death and grief ” – both for lives lost and for lives that are now not lived in the way that they once were.
Keeping carers healthy, happy and able to care
So. Care for the carer. Absolutely vital. Here are our top tips for keeping the carer at the top of their game – healthy, happy and able to care.
- Don’t ignore the carer by only ever asking about the person they are caring for; don’t assume they’re ok just because they don’t complain – they won’t complain if they’re solely responsible because of the perceived consequences of not being able to cope; would you?
- Make no mistake,they are likely to be tired and stressed from 24/7 caring, so try and get them to take a break; maybe you or siblings or relatives could step in for a few days to help out;
- Encourage other people to visit the home to give the carer a little breather; maybe arrange a regular slot so they can go out without feeling so guilty or anxious;
- Days out, treats, entertainment; try and encourage the carer to continue with the things they love doing as well as trying to organise the odd treat or day out for them; help make it possible for them to continue with the things they love doing…
- Help them stay healthy with good food and exercise – even a walk to the paper shop every day will help;
- Keep social – even if friends do start to drift away, there are lots of ways to continue to engage with the world for both the carer and the person cared for; try and encourage them not to give up and just stay in with the tv – not always easy;
- Respite care: can be organised in a care home or, can be organised in specialist locations for both the carer and the one being cared for:
Help in Dorset for Carers
Dorset social services can undertake a Carers Assessment which will establish what support they might need, where to get it and who might fund it;
Other sources of funding could be NHS Intermediate care – which is funding for care for someone on their return home from hospital.
There are other resources in Dorset: