As a carer, the idea of putting yourself first may seem selfish, but sometimes you need to put yourself first to protect you and the people around you. The mental and physical stress of being a carer combined with a lack of personal freedom can take its toll – over time this stress and lack of freedom could turn into physical and mental illness. If you’re ill and unhappy, this will then have a knock-on effect on the people you’re caring for as you may become too exhausted or simply demotivated.
Making room for your own free time isn’t easy but can be done. Here are some ways that you start caring for yourself whilst caring for others.
Stop saying no to help
If people offer help, don’t turn it down as they may never ask again. There may be people who you don’t trust to assist you or people who you think will add to the stress, but within your network there are certain to be some friends or family members who are more than capable of helping, even if it’s helping out with housework or cooking a meal whilst you do the physical care.
You should also not feel guilty going out of your way to ask people for help. This could involve hiring professional carers or it could involve asking friends and family members to help with tasks that could take some of the burden off of you. You could even look into counselling if you feel like you need to vent your feeling to someone – the likes of this site can help you to find a counsellor in your area.
Schedule weekly time for yourself
You may not be able to grab free time as it comes – scheduling in free time could allow you to make arrangements such as getting stand-in care. Ideally, you should have some free time every week, whether it’s an hour a day to take a bath and unwind or a whole evening to socialise with friends or pursue personal projects and hobbies. By having the same time every week, you’ll develop a routine that the people around you can adapt to.
Make sure that this isn’t time spent running errands for others and that you’re doing things that you want to do.
If the person you’re caring for is physically disabled but mentally still functioning well, it’s possible that they may be eager for some independence. Home modifications and new technology could allow for greater independence, whether this is voice operated tech for a blind person or grabs bars and stairlifts to help someone with mobility issues. They will be happier for having this independence and you will be happier for having some of the burden taken away.
Even when it comes to serious mental disabilities, there may be tools worth investing in such as cameras and alarms that allow you to leave them alone for periods of time, giving you freedom to other things and not always be by their side. There may even be security and safety precautions that you can take that require you to be less watchful if they like to go walkabouts or do activities they shouldn’t be doing.
There are companies that can advise you on ways to encourage this independence – you can read more here to gain a better understanding of these services. You may even be able to ask the person you’re caring for what they’d like to be able to do independently.
Research what you’re financially entitled to
Having to be a carer can also put a financial strain on you. You may have to work reduced hours or quit your job entirely to provide the care that is needed. There’s then the cost of any home modifications or gadgets required to make life easier for the person you’re caring for.
Fortunately, there are many government benefits and grants available to carers, as well as charity funding options, that can help to provide extra funding. Some of these grants and benefits may only be available for people under a certain income, whilst others are universal. You could also be entitled to certain community discounts on attractions such as theatre tickets, as well as public transport. These discounts might apply to both you and the person you’re caring for. Just remember to bring proof of this disability if needed such as a blue badge.
This is all worth taking advantage of as it could allow you to afford commodities and experiences you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Extra funding from grants may even allow you to contemplate hiring a carer for small periods of time (hiring a full-time carer might cause you to lose some of this money that you’re entitled to, although there may still be charities that can help out).
Treat yourself to personal luxuries
Caring for yourself isn’t just about providing practical needs for yourself and the person you’re caring for – whilst these can make life easier for you, sometimes a few personal luxuries are needed to truly make you happy. If you enjoy using your free time to have a hot bath, don’t feel guilty treating yourself to some bath bombs and soaps. Similarly plan days out and holidays that are for your own benefit. You may be able to take your loved one whom your caring for with you or you may be able to take a short break without them by getting caring staff to look after them in your absence. These small expressions of personal freedom will allow you to feel less held back and could get rid of some of the unhealthy resentment that can sometimes build up from becoming a carer.