No one plans on becoming a carer and it is important that you get the right information, practical help and any emotional support that you need, when you need it.
Caring for someone can be a big responsibility. You may be taking on a caring role for the first time and don’t know what to expect. You are not alone. We are here to help you assess how your new caring situation is going to affect you.
If you are close to or are a carer for someone, you will probably want to know more about their health condition. The better you understand the condition, its management and treatment, the more you will be able to help.
Download our information leaflets. If you are caring for someone after stroke, choose A Carer’s Guide to Stroke
Tell your GP you are a carer. Your doctor or Practice Nurse may be able to support you as a carer by:
- Providing information and advice on the health condition and treatment to help you feel more confident in your role.
- Carrying out home visits to you or the person you care for if your responsibilities make it difficult to attend appointments at the surgery.
- Dealing with the local pharmacist in providing repeat prescriptions
- Providing supporting letters and information to enable you and the person you care for to obtain benefits such as the Carer’s Allowance or community assessments.
- Providing information on services provided by the NHS such as patient transport to hospital appointments.
NI Direct has useful information for carers on its website. Click here to find out more about other sources of help and support
Caring for someone who is dependent on you is a big responsibility. It is realistic, not selfish, for carers to think about their own health and to arrange support.
After all, if you don’t look after yourself you run the risk of becoming so stressed or exhausted that you are no longer able to care for your loved one. You may need to pay more attention to healthy eating and being physically active.
You also need to take care of your back. As a carer, you may find that lifting the person you care for and helping them dress or move around may place a strain on your back. It may be impossible to avoid lifting and moving, but you can get advice that may reduce the risk of injury. There are also ways to minimise strain by using equipment and other support.Ask your GP, Occupational Therapist or Social Services to advise on lifting, turning or moving aids. These may include:
- Lifting equipment such as a hoist
- Mobility aids
- Bath aids
- Grab rails beside the bed or toilet
- Swivel car seat cushion
Carers tend to carry on regardless through colds, coughs, headaches, stomach upsets, flu and worse, but don’t put off seeing your doctor if your own ill health persists.
Even with a minor illness, try to take some extra rest. Your body will have a better chance of making a quick recovery and there will be less chance of complications.
Ask friends and family to lend a hand until you are well again.
Know your limits
If your expectations of yourself are always sky high, you will inevitably spend a great deal of time being disappointed and frustrated. Instead, be realistic in what you can achieve and celebrate success at every opportunity. Don’t take on too much, and accept offers of help from others
Acknowledge your feelings
Carers often have to cope with many conflicting feelings. Being a carer can be rewarding but it can also be demanding and frustrating. Alongside the positive moments there may be many painful ones. It’s important to recognise that you can love someone and still feel angry, guilty, depressed or resentful. These feelings are normal.
Acknowledging and dealing with your emotions will help curb stress and depression. If things do feel like they’re getting on top of you, perhaps you should consider what sometimes seems to be the most difficult thing of all – talking. You may find it useful to speak to someone outside the family, such as a trained counsellor or another carer carer.
When you have positive feelings of love or satisfaction that you are doing your best, it helps to share these, too.
Everyone needs a break from time to time. Those involved in caring are no exception. Indeed, it is often crucial that carers take some time to themselves, even if it is just for a cup of coffee or a shopping trip.
It may be hard to organise a break if you are caring on your own and have no family or friends to take over. You may also get into the habit of not having time off, or you may feel strongly that you are the only person who can do the job. The person you look after may also make things difficult by refusing to let anyone else but you do the caring. These problems need to be resolved.
Don’t be afraid to ask family or friends for help. They often want to offer support but don’t know how.
Investigate other sources of assistance, such as our Support Groups. Other voluntary agencies like Carers NI may also be able to help, or you can get more information from the carers’ co–ordinator within your local Health and Social Care Trust.
Making time for yourself to relax can help stave off feelings of anxiousness, stress and depression. For some, listening to music will help. For others, a relaxing bath can be just what’s needed.
If you hesitate to leave the person you care for, it’s worth considering whether perhaps they, too, may need time to themselves.
Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke provides support for carers of stroke survivors. Our Stroke Family Support Co-ordinators provide a listening ear and our Carers’ Groups give the opportunity to meet people in a similar situation.
Click here to find out more out Stroke Family Support
Stroke Carers Group
1st Monday in month
Moy Community Hall,
18 Dungannon Street
0781 316 0376
Stroke Carer’s Group
Last Wed. in month
Towerview Day Centre,
60, Bristol Park,
0771 484 4210
Last Thursday in month
Brownlow Community Hub
7 Brownlow Road
0798 957 3173
Stroke Carers Group
Last Friday in month
21 Dublin road,
0790 911 6630
0771 484 4213