I can’t count how many times I have said the following, in life, at work and in my role as the Chair of a Charity, ‘If you don’t look after yourself first, how on earth can you care for your loved one?’. Carer wellbeing and resilience is becoming more and more important in a society that is becoming increasingly reliant on them to plug the gaps in social care that are emerging in our communities. Over 1 in 8 adults in the UK are carers. This number is likely to rise considerably over the next 20 years.
Whilst carers may save the economy over £130 billion a year, they often do so at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. There is a real need to encourage carer wellbeing and resilience development. But I also know from my own experiences as a sister, daughter and a volunteer though that it is easier said than done!
Many of us struggle with work-life balance at the best of times. When caring responsibilities are added to already full lives we tend to go into fire fighting mode, focusing on getting through one day at a time. Whilst that may work in the short term, some people now have caring responsibilities that can last years and sometimes decades, particularly with our ageing population. In some cases there is very little time between when the children leave home and parents start to need support. This effects both men and women with the ‘burden’ being more evenly distributed than you might think.
My Top 5 Tips
So how can you ensure that as well as focusing on the person you care for that you also look after yourself?
Laugh – with friends, colleagues and if at all possible with the person you are caring for
Take 5 (minutes) – you don’t need hours a way to relax. Even a 5 minute mindful meditation on a daily basis will help you recharge
Find your space – my father values his greenhouse more than ever now, its his place to go and be ‘normal’.
Sleep well – or nap when you can. It is the foundation or good (or poor) wellbeing
Ask for help – whether its from friends and family, through flexible working, charities or help from health and social care. Don’t be too proud to look for support.