Caring for yourself helps you to provide better care for others

Caring for someone with a life-limiting illness is demanding. You might experience strong emotional and physical feelings. It is important that you also take care of yourself. As a carer you need to make sure that you eat well, get exercise, and enough sleep. You may feel tired much of the time with less energy than usual.

Recognising and understanding carer stress

You may find that you don’t function as well from the demands of caring for someone. Your diet may be poor or inadequate and you may not be getting much exercise. You are also likely to be getting less sleep, particularly if you are caring for your spouse. Spouses can spend up to 100 hours or more caring each week.

You may not get out of the house as frequently as you used to. Your friends may not visit as regularly. All of this may mean that you feel isolated. You may have less time to look after yourself.

You may feel anxious or uncertain if:

  • You don’t understand the course of the illness
  • You have trouble getting hold of health professionals
  • You don’t know what will be required of you now and in the future
  • You don’t understand what you need to do or how to do it
  • You feel anxious or depressed or emotionally distressed at the impending loss of your loved one.

You may feel guilt because:

  • You aren’t the one with the illness
  • You need time out for yourself
  • You aren’t managing the caring role as well as you would like. 

You may start to feel down while you are providing care. It is normal to have periods of feeling down as you adjust to what is happening. You should discuss this with health professionals.

If it is not diagnosed and treated, your health could suffer in the long-term. This could be seen as a grief reaction rather than depression. You should seek help if it goes on for too long. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness should not persist long term.

What you can do

You should try to look after your health while caregiving. This will help now, as well as in the future.

Your mental and physical health is important. Carers often put their own needs last. but looking after yourself also helps you to provide better care.

It may be helpful to speak to someone else who has provided care for someone with a terminal illness. It is important to find the right people to be with you and support you. Carer Gateway has tips and support contacts to help.

Self-care is what we do to maintain balance in our life. A self-care plan based on what you like to do can help you to keep this as part of your daily routine when caring for others. palliAGED has a Self-care form that you can print out or use online to create your own plan. 

Last updated 02 August 2021