It can be tricky to get a balance between looking after yourself by doing the things you want and thinking of other people. Today there is more emphasis on putting yourself first. We read advice to say ‘no’ when asked to do something we really don’t want to do or when we feel we already have enough responsibilities. Sometimes this can seem selfish but it is necessary to look after yourself physically and mentally if you are going to be able to care for others who depend on you.
I feel there are times one doesn’t have any choice but to put someone else first, especially if one is an unpaid carer. Whatever your situation try not to put others first all the time.
These days people are living longer and many live in their own home but need support. People with disabilities are generally living in the community rather than institutions.
Some people with disabilities live in group homes and have care provided by support workers. Others live on their own, with a few hours of support from paid workers each week. Family members often need to need provide care and support for all sorts of tasks that are not covered by paid workers. This may fall on the shoulders of one person. Many times it is not possible to refuse to provide support because the person with the disability is genuinely dependent.
Some adults with disabilities continue to live at home with their aging parents because there is nowhere else for them to live. There is a lack of supported accommodation in the community. At times the parent may not want to do a particular task but no one else is available.
It is important for people in caring roles to look after their own needs in order to protect their health but this is not easy. The following are some strategies which may help you get some support:
• Join a carer support group. Talk to the person who runs the group about your situation. Don’t be afraid to be honest about your needs and frustrations. You may qualify to belong to more than one support group. Each group will have different support available so it is worth belonging to more than one group.
• Join an online support group so you can access support from your own home at a time that suits you.
• Make enquiries about the availability of a day centre where the person you care for can go for a few hours each week. The mental stimulation will benefit him/her as well as giving you a break.
• Take advantage of any respite available. It is good for the person you care for to get used to being cared for by a variety of people. It may be hard for you to let go of the responsibility of caring but you and the person you care for will benefit. The person you care for may use emotional blackmail in an attempt to stop you making respite arrangements. Stay strong in your resolve. It may help to initially arrange respite for one or two days and gradually increase the amount of time.
• If you are visiting a person (or more than one) in residential care frequently, allow yourself a regular break. If you are not going away, arrange to make life relaxing at home during this time. Now is a good time for take away meals (without guilt). Don’t use the time to do extra tasks such as spring cleaning. Give yourself a real break and do hobbies you enjoy. Visit friends who make you feel good about life.
• Accept any offers of help. Others won’t do things exactly as you would and sometimes the person you care for may complain. Remind yourself it is in everyone’s interest that you take regular breaks. Others will learn as they get experience in the caring role.
It can be rewarding to care for others but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Make time for hobbies which are relaxing. Take advantage of any support available and don’t underestimate the valuable job you are doing.