Caring for the carer
Self-care by a carer is not selfish, it is essential. And caring for and about a carer is compassionate. Many people with long term conditions have carers, some of the carers are paid for their work, but many are unpaid family (and friends), who feel an obligation and this role can be daunting. Caring for anyone is not done in isolation, there are many people within the structure/s of care.
Many carers of people with dementia have clinical depression within a year of diagnosis, they are by definition ill themselves. This is true of all ages of carer, but if the person with dementia is being cared for by their spouse of many years, that spouse may also have numerous age related health conditions themselves, before the stress of being a carer is added to their burden of concerns.
If the carer burns out, the whole situation might collapse, with both the carer and cared for needing a lot more support and the cared for might end up permanently in care. Even if an admission into care is temporary, this can have a big impact on the wellbeing of both the cared for person and the carer.
Admission into care can often feel like “failure” and although there is no basis for that view, nevertheless, it appears to be a common misconception that is widely held. If the condition that the cared for person is living with is a deteriorating one, then often if they live long enough with it, admission into care, either permanently or temporarily is inevitable, unless the carer has the skill to nurse them with complex needs at home. Most unqualified family members have the best of intentions, but not the skill or capacity to provide the care, particularly if it involves both day and night care, as the carer will soon burn out with exhaustion. The assistance of paid carers, respite and eventually permanent admission into care is the only sustainable way to cope.
It is key, that whatever plan is put in place has sustainability built into it, as the condition changes over time, so how the person is looked after must change. In addition, when there is a new care plan in place, this new light that has been shone, often by a new person looking at the situation can make new suggestions that the people involved had not thought of. When the care has been the same for a long time, the plan become do whatever was done before, without giving thought to changing it, because it worked. When a care plan needs updating, for whatever reason, it can bring new ideas, that might or might not be accepted and actioned, but can be useful to have the discussion. Any changes will hopefully support the carer to continue for longer, with an improved care plan.
Caring for the carer is essential. The carer is a crucial role in ensuring that the person with care needs can continue as well as they are doing and the carer’s input will hopefully slow down any deterioration in their condition. Caring for the carer is not selfish, caring is an act of love, compassion and dedication and should be applauded.