Carers & family members
Self-care for carers & family members
Carers need to
maintain their health and wellbeing to provide the best frame of
mind to care for another individual.
Maintaining your health and wellbeing provides the energy and
capacity to endure the challenges that you may face in your role.
Good health and wellbeing mean that you can provide the best care
to your loved one.
Some of the most important tips for carers include:
- ask for help when you need it
- take time for yourself (e.g. respite services)
- exercise, eat healthily and sleep well
- relax regularly
- keep up social contacts
- attend a carers group for support
- access all available services and funding
- acknowledge and deal with feelings.
Long-term carers find that taking time out for themselves is
vital for survival. It can be provided at home or in a variety of
other settings, for just a few hours or even a week to allow a
holiday. Make sure you have a regular schedule of breaks using
respite care. Initially families may dislike a stranger caring for
their family member but there are plenty of good quality services
around that can make a big difference to helping you care more
The cumulative effects of stress can build over time and not be
noticed until problems emerge. Apart from exercise, diet and
regular sleep, there are plenty of useful strategies for managing
- problem-solving on major issues
- investigating and altering irrational beliefs
Regaining control of your life
In the aftermath of a brain injury, a family tends to put life
on hold and focus everything on the person with the brain injury.
However, in the long term families often find this never changes,
and the whole family begins to suffer.
Carers need to establish a balance in life that allows enough
self-care to be effective over the long term. Respite care is
an important part of this, but it also means good time management
and priorities to allow everyone's lives to return to normal as
much as possible. Make time for your usual hobbies and
interests as much as possible.
It is easy to fall into the role of 'super carer', thinking you
can work, look after the rest of the family, and care for
your injured family member all by yourself indefinitely!
Depression & difficult feelings
Guilt, anger, resentment, fear, stress, anxiety, depression and
grief are some of the emotions that will be encountered while
caring for someone with a brain injury. With time, the worst of
these feelings will go. It is normal to feel as if you are going
crazy at times, and it does not help to try to suppress or deny
what you are feeling.
The best way to deal with your feelings is to accept them, but
make sure you can talk about your feelings with someone who
understands, whether it is a family member, friend, counsellor or
support group. Depression is always a potential concern for carers,
and you should seek professional help if it becomes a serious
At some point, carers will find themselves unhappy with the
level of support from a particular hospital, health professional or
welfare association. You have the right to expect appropriate
support or treatment, and should be assertive in claiming what you
want. There are grievance procedures and appeal processes in most
cases. Your Brain Injury Association may be able to assist, or link
you with advocacy organizations.
You can meet others in a similar position, have a break, find
information and get support from others who know what your
situation is like. Sharing ideas, feelings and concerns can help
you feel less isolated. Sometimes friends won't understand your
situation, but a support group will. If there are no support groups
in your area, consider joining an online brain injury support
Maintain your friendships
Maintain an identity of your own separate from the caring
role, and keep your links to the world outside caring.
Be aware that some friends may tire of you talking about the
problems of being a carer. You may become resentful and lose
friends by expecting them to provide more support than they are
willing to give.
Where possible, seek support from other carers and don't expect
too much from friends, even if it means pretending to be interested
in things other than your own problems as a carer.
Plan for the future
Where possible, it's better to act than react. Instead of
worrying about the future (e.g. who will take on the caring role if
you can't?) think through all the potential future problems and
make plans now. It will bring peace of mind to yourself, family and
the person you are caring for.
Plan for future emergencies and events this way you are ensuring
the best possible care for the person that you provide care to. By
planning ahead will also ensure minimized stress for others if you
are unable to provide care.