Looking after yourself as a carer
It is important to find time to do things you enjoy. Getting support and having breaks is important. This helps you stay well and keep being a carer.
As a carer, it is important to look after yourself. Here are some things you can do to take care of your health:
- Tell your GP you are a carer. This means they can give you support and advice.
- Go to any health appointments you have, such as any screening appointments.
- Check if you can get a free flu vaccination – you might be able to have one if you are the main carer.
- Tell your GP if you have problems eating or sleeping, are struggling with difficult feelings or are finding it hard to cope.
It is important to take breaks from your caring role. Try the following tips:
- Accept help from others or ask for help.
- Make sure you have time off to relax.
- Do something you enjoy, like reading, going for a walk, meeting friends or going for a meal.
Eating well is important to help you look after yourself:
- Try to eat healthy food and sit down to eat a cooked meal.
- If you are tired, ask a family member or friend to help make meals in advance.
- Eat with a friend or go out for dinner together.
Finding time to exercise may not be a priority while you are a carer. But being active is important:
- Try to get out of the house every day and do some gentle exercise like walking. This can help you feel less tired and stressed.
- If you enjoy sport or going to the gym, try to keep doing this.
You might find these tips useful to help you relax:
- Try relaxation techniques using simple breathing and relaxation exercises. You could use podcasts or CDs to guide you – these are available at your local library or online. Or you could ask a healthcare professional for advice.
- If you are caring for someone living with cancer and you live in Scotland, you can access Sleepio for free. This is an app that offers a 6-week cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme to improve sleep.
- Try having a massage or other complementary therapy you enjoy. Your local carers’ centre, Macmillan Information and Support Centre or cancer support group may offer free complementary therapies for carers.
Getting enough sleep can be hard if you are looking after someone who is very ill. You may not feel able to relax, or you may need to help them during the night. Try using relaxation techniques to help (see above).
Being honest about your feelings can help you feel less stressed and more in control. You may think you should ignore your own feelings and only think about the needs of the person you are caring for. But you both need support to help you cope.
Try to get the support and information you need early on to help you develop ways of coping. Talk to family members, friends or one of the health or social care professionals involved in the person’s care. If your feelings are getting overwhelming or you feel depressed, it is important to get professional help.
We have more information about your feelings when someone close to you has cancer.
Macmillan is also here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:
- Call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.
- Chat to our information and support specialists online.
- Visit our Online Community to talk to other carers and share your experience.
How we can help
Chat online anonymously to others who understand what you are going through. Our community is available 24/7 and has dedicated forums where you can get advice and ask our experts.