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. Niamh Fox, who is part of our Social Work team, shares some tips on how carers can look after their mental health, and offers some helpful online resources to support carers during this difficult time.
This pandemic has brought with it a whole host of added difficulties and struggles for carers. These include reduced family support due to social 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. In these strange times, 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
- Keep active. This can be as simple as 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. Try to ensure you eat three well-balanced meals a day and limit alcohol intake. This is not just good for your physical health but also mental health. Healthy body, healthy mind!
- 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 support if needed.
- Check that you are receiving all your 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. Due to the pandemic, this can be increasingly difficult - but where you can, plan 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 should you be in a position that you cannot provide care and nominate a backup carer that 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?
St Patrick’s Mental Health Services have devised an excellent resource for carers which covers everything from hospital admission to taking care of yourself.
Care Alliance Ireland has set up an online social group to support carers during this time.
Family Carers Ireland is offering a free ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ workshop. More information can be found here.
Family Carers Ireland is also hosting an online carer’s coffee club every Thursday at 11am. Further information can be found here.
Citizen’s Information offers advice around your rights and entitlements as a carer.