Looking after your diet, getting regular exercise, and aiming to maintain social contacts are key elements.
A good, well-balanced diet will not only give you the energy you need to carry on caring, it will also boost your immune system and reduce your risk of falling ill. If the person you are caring for has a poor appetite, you may be less enthusiastic about your own food.
Though it’s not necessary to eat three full meals a day, taking time out to enjoy a
nutritious snack and looking forward to a tasty meal can make a difference.
Even if you have previously made all meals from scratch, using fresh ingredients, it may be time to think about saving time and energy by using more convenience foods.
Frozen or tinned foods and ready-meals can be just as nutritious. Finding time to shop and cook may be difficult. Meal or grocery delivery services could also be considered. Carers’ Resource can provide information about these services.
For a healthy diet, your daily intake should include foods from four main groups:
- Starchy foods – breads, cereals, potatoes, pasta, rice – wholemeal, if possible
- Dairy foods or diary alternatives – milk, yoghurt, cheese, soya or other
- Proteins – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and pulses
- Fruit and vegetables – try to eat five portions a day – fruit juice can count as one of those portions
Drink plenty of fluids, the NHS recommends 6 to 8 glasses a day Water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee, all count.
Many carers have difficulty in getting a good night’s sleep. They may have to get up because the person they care for needs attention or they may be unable to relax because of problems relating to caring, family, work… Just the feeling that you may be needed during the night can keep you awake.
Constant lack of sleep can make it much harder to cope and may affect your mental health. If lack of sleep becomes an ongoing problem it may be time to consider extra help. Speak to your GP or social care services – you may need to have an assessment or re-assessment of your needs and those of the person you are looking after.
Exercises at home or a walk in the fresh air can boost your energy and lift your mood. Try not to give up any physical activities or sports you’ve previously enjoyed.
Watch your back!
If you have to provide physical support – help with lifting, walking or bathing – always look after your back. Find out if adaptations or equipment could make life easier for you and the person you care for. Professional advice from an occupational therapist can help you select appropriate items. Some essential items such as handrails may be fitted free of charge or you may be eligible for a grant towards the cost of adapting a home. Social care services, your GP surgery or Carers’ Resource can provide further information.
Making time for yourself
Try to organise regular breaks for yourself and to keep up with activities you enjoy. This can of course be harder if you are caring on your own or if you feel you are the only person able to do the caring. Maybe the person you are caring for refuses to let anyone else help.
If the person you are caring for cannot be left alone, a solution needs to be found
because having time to yourself is important.
Friends and relatives need to know how much you need a break and provide support if they are in a position to do so. There are organisations which provide sitting services and longer term care.
You may also need to find out about respite care and funding to enable
you to take a break.
To find out more about time off and respite care, click here: Respite/time off