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8 ways for carers to combat stress
Stress can have a detrimental impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing and, left untreated, can cause serious health problems, including increased risk of heart attack, short-term memory loss and a suppressed immune system.
Britain’s 6.5 million carers are prone to high levels of stress, as they juggle meeting the needs of their loved ones with managing their own busy lives. According to the charity, Caring UK, 83% of carers feel stressed by their role and 54% have suffered from depression. Alzheimer’s Society says that nine out of ten carers experience feelings of stress or anxiety several times a week, while 80% find it hard to talk about the emotional challenges of caring.
According to a 2011 Census report, there are almost 690,000 unpaid carers living in London, with almost 150,000 of them caring for more than 50 hours a week. A previous Census report states that London alone has almost 93,000 older carers aged 65 and over providing informal care to a family member, friend or neighbour.
Here we have highlighted some helpful coping strategies for family carers experiencing stress and struggling to cope with caring duties:
You can’t do it all on your own, so don’t try to be a superhero. Turn to reliable family members and friends for help and support. Draw up a realistic rota of tasks and assign them evenly, so that everyone has a role and a schedule of key tasks. This will ensure consistent care and help to manage stress levels for all concerned.
Speak to your local authority
The person requiring care is entitled to an assessment of their care needs as they may be entitled to financial support. Contact their local authority (council). This may take some time to arrange, so don’t leave it too long to ask.
Look into other forms of financial support
Financial support may be available from some of the following:
- Attendance Allowance – This contributes towards the cost of care and is provided by the Department of Work & Pensions.
- NHS Continuing Care – This is a package of care funded by the NHS for those needing care due to health reasons. This may be available to those living in their own home, as well as in care homes.
- Carer’s Allowance – As a carer, you might be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
Arrange online deliveries
If the person you’re caring for is unable to get out much and you can’t be there all the time, look into Meals On Wheels deliveries (social services can point you in the right direction) or use online grocery delivery services to deliver meals directly to their door. This takes the pressure off and means the person doesn’t have to struggle to the shops.
Spend quality time with the person needing care
You may be focusing on domestic tasks or personal care, but make sure you set aside some time for you and the person to spend some quality time together now and then, where you can both relax and enjoy yourselves. Going out for Sunday lunch, or to a favourite coffee shop or beauty spot, can boost mood and wellbeing for both of you. Try not to make every moment about washing, dressing or personal care.
Seek additional support
Hiring a home care agency to provide occasional help and support can be a good solution for everyone. Most home care agencies will be happy to provide a flexible range of care options. ‘The ideal home care package will be flexible to meet the needs of the person using the service,’ says Nicki Bones, Director of Operations at SweetTree. ‘Talk to your GP or your district nurse as they will have had experiences of home care providers.’
Always meet the home care provider first and ensure they have received a good report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator of health and social care in England. Visit https://www.cqc.org.uk to read the latest report. Ask a prospective home care provider if they will send the same carer daily (barring holidays or sickness) and what their procedures are in emergencies or unpredictable situations.
Take short breaks
Everyone needs time away from being a carer and you don’t have to be a superhero. Arrange for friends or professional care workers to take care of your loved one so that you can have a short break and recharge your batteries.
Look after yourself
Small things like drinking enough water, cutting back on caffeine and going for a ten-minute walk each day will provide significant benefits to your health, making you a healthier carer. Short bouts of regular exercise will improve your mood and help combat stress, making you feel better placed to cope with your caring duties.
For advice and on how best to support a loved one at home please get in touch.