As a carer you may feel tired much of the time with less energy than usual.
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 may also 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.
How to look after yourself
You should try to look after your health while caregiving. This will help now, as well as in the future.
- Have someone to help with the care so that you can get some sleep, eat regular healthy meals and exercise
- Cut down on smoking and the use of alcohol
- Cut down on recreational drugs as they are often not helpful in the long-term
- Take time out for other things - at least one activity each week would help, such as sport, craft or art
- Set aside quiet time each day to clear your mind. You may find meditation useful or music or prayer. Working in the garden or walking may also help
- Stay connected to the community and other forms of support such as church or a social club
- Try to keep a sense of humour even in the dark times. A video or DVD may be good for this.
Social and community support can help you to manage longer. It can help you to feel more positive and less vulnerable. Many people value their independence but it is important to accept support. It is a good way to create a strong network.
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.