Niamh Fox of our Social Work team shares some tips on how carers can look after their mental health.
COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives. We are living through unprecedented times and now, more than ever, we appreciate the tremendous work our carers do on a daily basis.
The pandemic brought with it a whole host of added difficulties and struggles for carers. These include reduced family support in light of physical distancing guidelines, the withdrawal of some homecare packages and other state services and, of course, the intense worry about our often vulnerable loved ones.
This, in turn, makes life as a carer even more challenging. It is so important for carers to practice self-care and be mindful of their wellness and mental health.
Ten tips for looking after your mental health as a carer
Keeping active can be as simple as going for a short walk. Exercise has been shown to boost self-esteem and energy levels. Make this an enjoyable addition to your day.
Eat well and drink sensibly.
Accept offers of help.
Nobody can do this role alone. Learn to reach out to others, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you find yourself struggling. Why not let family members know the ways they can help?
Be aware of your mental health.
Caring for another person can be an emotionally challenging job. Be mindful of your own wellness. Practice self-care regularly and don’t delay in seeking professional help if you need it.
Check that you are receiving your full entitlements.
Often, carers will be entitled to apply for Carers Allowance, which is a state payment. Check with your local Citizen's Information Centre about your rights.
Reach out to other carers.
It’s easy to feel isolated and alone as a carer. There are many support groups available across the country that provide support and advice and allow carers to share information and experiences. Many of these groups are now online, making them more accessible in this current climate.
Keep in contact with your support network as much as possible.
The pandemic, at times, made staying in touch with family, friends and your support network more difficult. This is becoming a little easier as restrictions and guidelines ease. Where you can, plan to meet up with others; if you can't meet in person, have regular phone or video calls with loved ones. Be open to new technologies and ways of communicating.
Keep up your interests as much as possible.
If there is a hobby or activity you enjoy, ensure that you set aside time to do it, and try your best not to feel guilty about doing this. We all need to practice self-care regularly.
Create an emergency plan.
In order to be ready should you be in a position that you cannot provide care, nominate a backup carer who you both feel comfortable with and trust. Ensure that this person has access to all relevant information.
Give yourself the credit you deserve!
You are doing one of the toughest jobs there is - so give yourself the acknowledgement and recognition you deserve!
Where can I get support?
We offer a useful resource for carers, which covers everything from hospital admission to taking care of yourself. You can also watch a free series of talks from our series for families on mental health recovery.
Care Alliance Ireland has set up an online social group to support carers.
Family Carers Ireland is offering a free ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ workshop.
Family Carers Ireland is also hosting an online carers' coffee club every Thursday at 11am.