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Carers: Try these 4 ways to care for yourself

Tue 03 Oct 2017

Brain injury doesn't just affect individuals; it can transform the lives of entire families. You may have to make considerable changes to the way you live, such as becoming a part-time or full-time carer, and in order to do this effectively it's very important to make time for yourself.

Here are our four ways you can do this:

1. Maintain your interests and social life

It can be very difficult to combine an active social life with the demands of being a carer. This can mean that you lose contact with old friends and, when that happens, it can be difficult to re-establish friendships.

It is important to remember that maintaining friendships is a vital part of a healthy and happy life. Friends can be an important source of emotional support as well as providing an opportunity to get away from the demands of home life for a while, all of which can help you to look after yourself and your relative more effectively.

It is also important to maintain your hobbies and interests, both those that involve social interaction and also solitary pursuits such as music, reading, watching films, etc. This may seem obvious, but it is easy to let the demands of caring dominate your life. Making time for activities that make you happy can make all the difference to your quality of life.

2. Stay healthy

Being a carer is very stressful and time consuming and it can be easy to let yourself stop making the effort to eat healthily and engage in exercise. This is self-defeating, because being fit and healthy helps you to deal with stress and cope better with everyday life.

Also, research shows that people who have high levels of stress are more prone to illness and slower to recover than less stressed people. Stress can even make cuts and other wounds heal more slowly.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can counter these negative effects of stress and improve your sense of well-being and quality of life. Try to take time to do whatever forms of exercise you enjoy and make the effort to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It is also important to remember to see your GP with any health concerns.

You can find information on exercise and healthy eating on the NHS website.

3. Take a break from caring

It is important to take a break from caring on occasion in order to rest and have some time to yourself. Provision and funding for respite care should be made in your relative’s care package and the services provided by your own carer’s assessment.

There are a number of options available for respite care:

Some social services departments operate voucher schemes to provide respite carers. You can also use direct payments to pay for respite care. Contact your local authority to find out the help that they can provide. Carers’ organisations and the Headway helpline can also provide details of respite and holiday providers (see ‘Useful organsations’).

4. Consider carer support groups

Often the best source of support is other carers in a similar situation to yourself. Many of Headway’s groups and branches provide support group meetings and one-to-one support for carers. These services are particularly helpful as they provide peer support from others in similar situations.

Specialist carers’ organisations offer support groups and services in many areas of the UK and you can find contact details in the ‘Useful organisations’ section. There is also a UK-wide network of Carers’ Centres offering information, advice, practical help, advocacy, training, education and all kinds of other services. You can find more information and search for your local Centre at www.carers.org/what-carers-centre-0.

Your local council should be able to signpost to other local groups and NHS Carers Direct can provide information about groups and services in England.

Further information

Contact the Headway helpline on 0808 800 2244 or helpline@headway.org.uk if you'd like to discuss any aspect of caring for someone after brain injury. 

You can also explore the resources below to find out more, including our Caring for someone with a brain injury booklet which contains a wealth of information on caring, such as financial support, carers assessments and a look at how the role changes at various stages after the brain injury. 

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