In the UK today there are 6.5 million people caring for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. The number has been predicted to rise again too and within our lifetime, there will be 9 million carers (Carers UK).
With more and more of us now looking after a dependant, it is important to consider the role and responsibility of becoming a carer, and the impact it can have on your life. Caring can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience but it can also be a big undertaking, especially when we are juggling responsibilities at home or at work. It can often happen quickly and with little time to prepare and you may also find it conflicts with the responsibilities you have to your immediate family, your work obligations and your social needs and desires.
All too often, it can naturally cause us to become preoccupied with the wellbeing, health and happiness of the person we are caring for and our own needs can be forgotten. We may sometimes feel selfish or guilty when taking some time back for ourselves and we may also feel anxious and worried about our dependant, afraid of what’s happening while we’re not there.
Creating a balance not only helps you but it also benefits your dependant. It allows you to think more clearly, remain focused, support the individual more effectively and most importantly stay positive - it’s good for the soul!
We’ve added some helpful tips below to support you in creating a successful caring, work and life balance to support your dependant and yourself.
Although you may sometimes be faced with challenges with little notice, prior planning and preparation where possible can often be the key to success. Try creating a calendar which everyone who supports you and your loved one can easily access and schedule in all activities, including events, meetings, appointments and routine assistance that may be required – such as preparing meals, grocery shopping and laundry.
If transport, personal belongings or specific paperwork are required, don’t forget to make a note of this also. Through making a shared calendar, everyone is aware of what is happening and you are able to plan in advance and keep track of your progress, helping to manage work commitments, family time and plan around social events too.
Staying Healthy, Fit and Strong
If you’re looking after someone else, it’s important to ensure you are healthy too! Make sure you are taking the time to eat and that your meals are nutritionally balanced – with lots of fruit and vegetables. If you feel a little under the weather, visit your doctor as soon as possible. It’s better to voice your concerns early than to let symptoms get worse.
Looking After Your Emotions
Caring can have an impact both physically and mentally and it’s essential to recognise that the role can take its toll on even the strongest person. Try to find time to talk to local carers, family and friends about how you feel and make sure you speak out regularly.
Taking Regular Breaks
A few hours of ‘me’ time can really make a difference to your role as a carer. Make sure you use this time for your hobbies and interests, rather than household chores (as tempting as it can be!). You will be able to return to your role feeling refreshed, energised and positive, and often your confidence and positivity transfers to your dependant too.
Asking Others For Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family. Often, you will find others want to help but may not know whether you would like additional assistance or how they are able to support as best as possible. Through sharing responsibilities, you are able to plan your free time and relax in the knowledge that your dependant is in safe hands.
Don’t Feel Alone
One of the most effective ways to create a successful work/life balance in caring is to remember you’re not alone. There are many people in similar situations who may also feel upset, frustrated or angry and remember this can help you to take the time to relax and unwind.