There are many men and women who are full time carers. They may be looking after someone who is physically or mentally ill. The person being cared for maybe a child or adult and is usually a family member.
There can be many challenges in looking after another but many rewards as well. The trick to remaining healthy so you can continue as an effective carer is to make time for yourself and ask for support when you need it.
I will talk about some of the physical and emotional challenges you may face and how to deal with them.
Muscular Aches and Pains
Helping the person you are caring for with everyday tasks like getting in and out of bed, going to the toilet, showering, dressing and sitting in a wheelchair can all take their toil in back, neck, shoulder, arm and leg pain if not done correctly.
Learning correct manual handling techniques and the use of mechanical lifters can help prevent injury.
Massage can help relieve aching muscles. Investing in a monthly massage can help by relieving the physical pain and giving you time for yourself. If you are unable to book a massage you can make the following blend yourself and massage the affected muscles.
Relief for Aching Muscles
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) 3 drops, lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 2 drops, rosemary 1 drop in 10mls cold pressed vegetable oil.
Aches and pains
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) 5 drops, peppermint (Mentha piperita) 5 drops, ginger (Zingiber officinale) 5 drops in 30 mls of cold pressed vegetable oil.
The stress and worry that can come from always being on the alert to the needs of another can lead to tension headaches. Indian head massage is an easy and effective way to lessen the build-up of stress and tension headaches. Massaging the area with an essential oil massage blend is also effective.
Tension Headache Be Gone
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 2 drops, geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) 2 drops, peppermint (Mentha piperita) 1 drop in 10mls cold pressed vegetable oil. Massage neck, shoulders and temples with the blend. You can then massage the scalp without the blend if you wish.
Driving to doctors and other appointments, lack of sleep, shopping and preparing special foods, making sure medications are taken on time and the other myriad of things that must be done when caring for another can all take their time and lead to physical exhaustion.
It is really important that you make time for yourself throughout your busy day. Do something just for you even if it is only for 10, 15 or 20 minutes. This could include going for a short walk around the block or garden, listening to your favourite music, having a massage, drinking a cup of tea or coffee in your garden really slowly and enjoying it, reading a few pages or chapter of a book or newspaper. If you are feeling physically exhausted the following blend along with getting some sleep may help.
Wake up and Go
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) 2 drops, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) 2 drops, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) 2 drops in a diffuser.
Blend rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) 2 drops, geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) 2 drops and peppermint (Mentha piperita) 1 drop in a burner or vaporiser.
It can sometimes be hard to get to sleep or stay asleep when caring for another. They may need you during the night or you may be physically exhausted but still find it difficult to sleep. Stress and worry is another reason for sleeping difficulties. It is important that you get enough sleep so you can stay resilient and able to cope with caring for another.
Some tips to help you get to sleep.
- Try drinking a warm glass of milk or a cup of chamomile tea an hour or two before bed time.
- Visualization – Imagine a very relaxing scene. Make sure you involve all your senses.
- Have a warm bath with 3 drops of lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and 2 drops of geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil in a half cup of full fat milk added to the bath. Play relaxing music to further relax you.
- A chest massage using 3 drops of lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and 2 drops of geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential in 10mls of cold pressed vegetable oil.
- Place a few drops of lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) or other relaxing essential oil on a tissue and leave near your pillow so you can breathe in the aroma.
Sleep easy blend
Add sandalwood (Santalum album) pure essential oil 1 drop, frankincense (Boswellia carterii) 1 drop and lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 8 drops to 10 mls cold pressed vegetable oil and massage your neck, shoulders and chest.
Lack of exercise
If you are lifting the person in and out of bed, showering, dressing and sitting them in a wheelchair and doing other physical work connected with caring you may be getting plenty of exercise.
If your caring doesn’t involve a lot of the above you may not be getting enough exercise. Exercise is important to help you maintain strength and flexibility, reduce stress, sleep well at night and keep up your energy levels.
You don’t need to go to a gym. Walking, swimming, tai chi, yoga or gardening done 3 times a week for 30 minutes maybe all that you need to keep you healthy.
It may be a challenge at times to eat well but a healthy diet is essential if you are going to be able to have the energy and stamina to do all you need as a carer. Take time out occasionally to have a relaxing meal or catch up with family and friends.
Stress and anxiety
Perhaps the biggest emotional challenge for the carer is dealing with the emotional feelings that can arise from caring for an extended period of time. There may be feelings of never having a moment for themselves, the idea that this will never end and they are stuck in this role for life, suggesting ways the person they are caring for can help themselves and being ignored and feeling guilty for wanting things to change.
Stress may show up as frustration, sadness, feeling unable to cope with everyday things, loss of hope, poor or no appetite, restlessness and difficulty in sleeping. Other symptoms may include tiredness, apathy, digestive problems, headaches, impatience anger and resentment.
Tips to help with stress
Difficult as it maybe accept that this is the way things are now and look for ways you can get help and support.
Ask your family and friends for support. Perhaps they can take over your role for a few hours while you take time for you. It may be so you can go to the hairdressers, have a massage, play a round of golf, see a movie, sit in the park or simply doing nothing and enjoying that feeling. It doesn’t matter how you spend the time. All that matters is that you spend it just for you so you can rejuvenate yourself.
Know that whatever comes your way you have the strength and ability to cope. You may need to look at another way of doing something but you will get through it.
Take care of yourself physically, eat well, make time for exercise and get a good night’s sleep.
Spend time with family and friends. If you don’t have time to do it in person, speak to them on the phone.
Ask for assistance from charities, government agencies or your local council with showering and looking after some of the physical needs of the person you are looking after if appropriate.
Use essential oils in the form of massage or in a room vaporiser to help you relax. Make sure you choose pure essential oils to get the benefits.
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 2 drops, palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini) 2 drops, geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) 1 drop in 10mls cold pressed vegetable oil for massage or in a diffuser to vaporise.
Calm anxiety down blend
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) 3 drops, geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) 5 drops, cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) 3 drops in 20 mls of cold pressed vegetable oil. Use as a body massage or to massage the solar plexus (where the rib cage makes a V-shape).
Add sandalwood (Santalum album) 1 drop, lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 3 drops and sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) 2 drops to a vaporiser to help calm you down.
Stress relief blend
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) 3 drops, sandalwood (Santalum album) 3 drops, lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 2 drops in a vaporiser.
Blend sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) 4 drops, lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 3 drops and geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) 2 drops in 20 mls of cold pressed vegetable oil. Gently massage a small amount of the blend into the back of the neck, onto the chest and over the solar plexus (where the rib cage makes a V-shape).
Fear and anger
Cedarwood atlas (Cedrus atlantica) 4 drops, sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) 3 drops, lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) 3 drops in 20mls cold pressed vegetable oil or in vaporiser.
Caring for Yourself
Too often as a carer you are so busy caring for another that you neglect your own needs and health.
Once you begin caring for a parent, spouse or child the relationship between you can change. This can result in more conflict and frustration on both sides. One may feel they are being told what to do and have little say in their treatment and life. The other may feel their advice is being ignored or they are being taken for granted with little or no time for themself.
They may both worry about finances and how they will pay for doctors, medication and other bills connected with their illness and living expenses.
Following the advice above about eating well, exercising regularly, getting a good night’s sleep and getting help when you need it will all help you cope with the demands placed on you by caring.
Find someone you can talk to when it all gets a bit too much. This could be a family member, friend or professional counsellor. Join a Carer Support Group in your area where you can talk over your experiences and get tips and support from others who are going through similar experiences.
Most importantly give yourself the gift of time for yourself to do the things that you love or need. One of the fears that carers have is losing themselves and forgetting who they are on a deep level. Another is putting their life on hold. By taking sometime for yourself each day you stay in touch with you and your wishes and desires. You can remain strong whatever happens as you are nourishing yourself on a deeper level emotionally and spiritually.
Being a carer is not easy but the challenges you overcome can strengthen your relationship with yourself and the one you are caring for.
Some carer resources in Australia