Caring for someone – information for carers
The information below is taken from the St Christopher’s Home Care information book (PDF) which is given to all home care patients
In this section
- What can help? Who can help?
- Looking after your own emotional health and well-being
- Young Carers
- Some worries of young carers
- What can help?
This section is written for anyone who is providing care or practical, emotional or social support for a partner, relative, or friend with advanced illness living at home.
There are nearly six million carers in the UK providing care unpaid; the Government has been looking at ways of helping carers do what can be a demanding job. Many carers also have paid employment, look after children or other dependent or frail family members.
Many carers find that taking care of someone is an important and fulfilling time in their lives where bonds between people are strengthened. Nonetheless there can be strains and worries, and the following information aims to offer useful advice and sources of support.
Carers have been asked what most concerns them. The most common responses are:
- the danger of overwork and becoming physically exhausted
- the risk of ill-health (back troubles, poor sleep, depression)
- mental strain and anxiety
- stress on family relationships and friendships
- limitations on employment and career
- money worries and
- feelings of isolation, helplessness, sadness – and sometimes regret, anger and guilt.
As a carer you will probably still be coming to terms with the illness and the effects it is having on everyone in the family. Each situation is different and every person has their own way of coping. Illness brings many changes to everyday life and relationships. This can bring you closer to the person you are helping, but it can also be worrying and tiring and you may not know what help is available or who to call.
You may be involved in giving help yourself or arranging for other people to provide help with a wide variety of tasks such as:
- washing and dressing
- getting to bed and to the toilet
- housework, laundry or cooking
- spending more time with the person needing care
- responsibility for paperwork, bills and financial matters
- attending medical or hospital appointments or
- monitoring care being given at home by professional caregivers.
Most carers need help and support at some point so that the best care can continue to be given.
Having good information about the illness of the person you are caring for and about their treatment
Your St Christopher’s nurse, in consultation with the hospice doctors, can provide information, as can the specialist team at your local hospital and your GP. At its best, caring is a partnership between patient, carer(s), and the St Christopher’s Home Care team.
Good quality written information is available free from Macmillan and Cancerbackup and from the Anniversary Centre at St Christopher’s or the Caritas Centre in Orpington.
Knowing about local sources of practical help with personal care and domestic tasks
Your St Christopher’s nurse or social worker can help you contact the various agencies offering these services. Some addresses and telephone numbers are listed in the resources section of the home care information book (PDF)
Looking after yourself physically
In concentrating on looking after others we can sometimes start to neglect ourselves. Your health is very important so try to eat well and ask for help if you are having problems sleeping.
A physiotherapist can offer advice about the safest way to help the person you are caring for move and get about. Sometimes special aids and equipment provided by community services can bring much physical relief for you and the person you are looking after. Your St Christopher’s nurse can advise you as to whom to contact.
Knowing who is there to listen and give support
Taking a break from caring, whether for a few hours, a weekend, or longer
Looking after someone is not always easy and often frustrating. There are times when it will help to talk to someone about how the cared for person’s illness and treatment are affecting you and your life. Having someone you can trust to share some of your thoughts and feelings can lessen your worries and feelings of anxiety. You may have a relative or good friend whom you can trust or you might find it more helpful to talk to someone outside the family circle. This could be the St Christopher’s social worker. The hospice also offers the services of a consultant psychiatrist if you need to have more specialist advice.
It is important to continue doing things which give you pleasure and help you to relax. Try to make time for maintaining friendships and social contacts.
Having someone to give help and support when communication between the person you are looking after and with other members of the family, including children, goes through a difficult patch
A serious illness can put strain on family relationships and friendships. Some conversations can be difficult for families.
The St Christopher’s social worker is able to spend time with you, with the person you are caring for, and with other family members to help with these.
Leaflets and activity booklets are available to help parents or grandparents talk to any children in the family about what it is like for someone close to them to be ill, and about dying.