Who cares for the carers?

Who Cares for Carers

If you are looking after someone ­ don’t forget to look after yourself.

As a GP, I have many patients who wear themselves out trying to look after loved ones.
Perhaps you are doing long hours at work as well as with a relative. Maybe it feels like
you’re always on the road driving to be with them. Or simply coping with the 24 hour a day
worries about whether they are OK. It’s important to remember that if you are not physically
and emotionally in good form, you won’t have enough energy to keep caring.
Doctors and nurses now talk about “compassion fatigue”. It’s that feeling you might have
experienced when you are so tired of seeing your loved one struggling that you start to feel
numb. The pleasure you once got from caring for someone might feel like it has run out and
anger or frustration has taken its place. If this is how you feel it is time to make some
changes.

Take a step back and write down what you are trying to do each week. What could you
tweak to make sure you have set aside some time to focus on yourself? Find some moments
to exercise, talk to friends, or just sit still! Shake up your routines if you feel stuck in a rut. Let
your GP surgery know that you are a carer: they will add this to your notes to flag up that you
might be under extra pressures and that, if you get ill, it will have an effect on the person you
care for. Make an appointment if you feel your health is suffering or need more support.
Sometimes telling people they need to be a bit more selfish is the best prescription I can
write!

Dr Amy Kerstein (GP)

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