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How important is it to know your limitations as a carer and activity seek help at the right time

The role of carer comes with many rewards but can also have many frustrating and tiring aspects, particularly if your relative or friend needs a lot of support or their needs increase. Whether you have been a carer for years or are new to looking after someone, you need to look after yourself as well. Caring can affect you both physically and emotionally, so it is important to recognise your limitations and seek help when you need it. This is important for both you and the person you care for because with the right support you will be able to carry out your role of carer for as long as you need to.

Looking After Yourself

If you have health problems of your own, then make them a priority. Ensure that your GP knows you are a carer and what impact it has on your health. You may be advised to have a flu jab each year or other protective measures to keep you healthy. If you need to visit the doctor, see if it is possible for both you and the person you are caring for to have appointments at the same time so that you only have to make one visit to the surgery and can arrange for repeat prescriptions to be sent to the pharmacy.

Making sure you eat a healthy diet, taking a moderate amount of exercise and getting enough sleep are also very important. Although it may seem difficult, if you organise your time you should find that you are able to plan meals ahead and work out when you will have time to exercise. Many carers find that making a list of all the tasks they have to do and prioritising them is helpful.

Being a carer can be very isolating, so make sure you keep in contact with friends and family. Joining a carers? group can be very helpful as you will meet people in a similar situation to your own, and you can discuss any problems you are having with someone who understands.

Finding Help When You Need It

If the person you care for is very dependent, you may have difficulty finding any time for yourself. Rather than letting this wear you down, you need to address the problem. Arranging for someone to sit with the person you care for even for just a few hours a week can make all the difference. If you do not know anyone who can do this, your GP or social services department may be able to help. Day-care centres can also offer you some respite from caring, for perhaps one day a week. This can also benefit the person you look after, as they will probably enjoy the social aspect of day care and the chance to join in different activities.

Many care homes offer respite care facilities, and arranging for the person you care for to go into a home for a week every six or eight weeks will give you a chance to recharge your batteries and get any necessary jobs in the house done. If you introduce the idea of respite care carefully, and stress that it is just for a short break, it will be easier for the person you care for to accept the idea. Regular breaks in a home that they are familiar with will benefit you both. If finance is a problem, your social worker should be able to help.

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