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Your own needs as a carer

When you’re caring for someone with a terminal illness, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. But taking time to look after your own health and wellbeing will benefit both yourself and the person you’re caring for.

If you're looking for the Caring for carers in Wales page, you can find it here  .

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Being a carer can be both physically and emotionally draining. Carers are more likely to experience physical and mental health problems than people without caring responsibilities, like back pain, anxiety and depression. However, there are things that you can do to look after your own health and support is available if you feel unable to cope.

Eating well

A healthy diet is important no matter who you are. Eating well can help give you the energy to provide the best care you can.

A balanced diet includes:

  • at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day
  • starchy foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes and cereals
  • some protein, such as meat, fish, eggs and beans
  • some dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt

It‘s healthy to limit the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fat in your diet. Choose low fat dairy options if you’re trying to cut down on fat in your diet.

NHS Choices   has more information on eating well, and Carers UK   offers money and time-saving tips for healthy eating.

Exercise

As well as helping you feel physically fitter and stronger, exercise is good for your mental health as it releases chemicals in your brain which can lift your mood. Exercising during the day can also help you sleep better.

It can be hard to find time to exercise when you’re caring for someone, especially if you feel you can’t leave them alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for, or accept help from friends or relatives who offer to sit with your loved one while you do some exercise.

Sometimes even a 10-minute walk can help relieve stress and you can also do certain kinds of exercise, such as gardening and yoga, without having to leave the house.

If you don’t have a network of personal support network, there are organisations that provide respite care. This is someone taking over your caring for a short time to allow you to take a break. Respite care could be for a couple of hours a week or for a longer amount of time.

Getting enough sleep

It can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you’re a carer. The person you’re looking after may need help during the night or you may feel unable to leave them. Worrying about your family member or friend, money issues and other stresses can also keep you awake.

If you’re having problems sleeping for more than a few nights, speak to your doctor. Marie Curie may also be able to help care for your relative or friend overnight.

Carers UK   and NHS Choices   have further tips and advice on sleep.

Psychological and emotional wellbeing

Being a carer can be extremely stressful. Many carers say they experience negative emotions including guilt, resentment, anger, loneliness.

If you can, talk to family and friends about how you’re feeling and ask for help. Your doctor can also offer support, while some organisations provide respite care to enable you to have a break.

Organisations like Carers UK  , Carers Northern Ireland   , Carers Wales  , Care Info Scotland   and Carers Trust   can put you in touch with local support groups.

The great thing was that the Marie Curie Nurses were allowing us all to get some much-needed rest and quality time together as a family, with all Mum’s care needs looked after. 
Patrick, Carer/relative

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