Chief Executive, Carers UK
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be hugely rewarding – but also tough on top of the usual pressures of family life. In the UK, there are more than 6.5 million unpaid carers looking after a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. Many care for friends and family for over 50 hours a week, often alongside their paid employment.
It’s no surprise that, while trying to juggle everything, almost three quarters of carers report they have suffered mental ill health, such as stress or depression, as a result of caring. It’s so important that carers are able to take care of their own health and wellbeing too.
Looking after yourself while taking care of a loved one with dementia can be hard but there are a number of solutions that can help improve wellbeing:
Find out about carers’ rights and support
Trying to navigate the health and social care systems and knowing what financial support is available can be a challenge. For a guide outlining all the rights and support available to carers in one place, Carers UK’s ‘Looking after someone’ guide is a great place to start. Go to carersuk.org/help-and-advice/get-resources/looking-after-someone for a free copy.
Make the most of technology
Different types of equipment and technology can help make a home safer, life easier and provide independence for the person being looked after. Everyday tech like mobile apps can take the stress out of tasks such as shopping and coordinating care. Find out what’s out there and how to get it at carersuk.org/help-and-advice/technology-and-equipment
Have fun together
It can often feel like it isn’t possible to do the same activities with a loved one that they enjoyed in the past, but it’s still possible to have fun together by trying new things.
Music is a particularly powerful way to trigger memories. Using BBC Music Memories carers can create playlists of music from particular decades and styles that can be enjoyed together: musicmemories.bbcrewind.co.uk/
Reach out for support and understanding from other carers
Whether it’s round-the-clock or for a few hours a week, caring can feel overwhelming at times so it’s important to know that you’re not alone. The Carers UK forum is a supportive online community of current and former carers who understand the ups and downs of caring. Sharing an experience, a problem or just having a good old rant to a fellow carer can make a world of difference. Go to carersuk.org/forum.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a break
Caring for someone with a complex condition such as dementia can take up a lot of personal time and energy, so taking a break is vital to recharge the batteries, meet up with friends or simply catch up on sleep.
There are various options for getting support for a person being looked after or taking a break together, whether that’s support from friends or family or support services. Something as simple as going out for a walk when the weather’s nice can really help your mental wellbeing. Search online for our Taking a Break factsheet: carersuk.org/help-and-advice/health/looking-after-your-health/taking-a-break.
From 10th to 16th June we’ll be celebrating Carers Week, the UK’s annual drive to raise awareness of caring and celebrate the vital contribution of carers. This year, Carers UK joins forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, MS Society, Rethink Mental Illness and Sense to help get carers connected to information and support. Find out more at carersweek.org