5 Tips for Carers to Improve Your Health and Well-being

5 Tips for Carers to Improve Your Health and Well-being

Caring can be a rewarding experience, but it can also take a mental and physical toll. To continue providing care to their loved ones, it’s vital that carers stays healthy. But when you’re looking after someone else, it’s easy to forget your own health needs. Sure, there may be times where it’s difficult to think about anything else, and sometimes carers may feel they aren’t doing enough. But you are human too. It’s important to think about your own health and well-being .

Being healthy is not only vital for you, but it is also beneficial to the person you care for. If you have a good sleep schedule, you will have more patience and energy. If you have access to more financial or emotional support, you will be in a better position to support the people you are looking after.

Here are five tips to help improve your health and well-being, especially if your caring responsibilities are physically and emotionally draining you out.

Making Time for Regular Exercise

It can be difficult to find the time when you have caring responsibilities. You may be worn out, but taking some time out to exercise can be beneficial to your physical and mental health. Think about a good time to fit this in, and give your own needs the same importance as others.

A simple stroll in the park can help declutter your mind and keep your joints healthy. Consider joining a virtual exercise class if you prefer to exercise with others. The NHS have a great resource about fitness, tutorials and exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home. Consider doing exercises with the person you support, if appropriate.

Having a Healthy Diet

It can be difficult to maintain your caring responsibilities if you don’t have the right nutrition to fuel your day. It can be easy to forget while caring, and it’s much easier to snack on processed foods when you feel there isn’t enough time. Try and eat a varied diet of fruits and vegetables, as well as having healthy protein in each meal. Try not to let stress or boredom lead to over-indulging on snacks.

Here are a few healthy-eating tips to try:

Having a healthy breakfast each day. It’s a great way to start the day with some fibre, and it will help you stay away on unhealthy snacks throughout the day.

Adding more fruits and vegetables. The NHS guideline recommends at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day.

Staying hydrated. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints and gives you energy throughout the day. Most adults need around 2 to 2.5 litres of fluid a day.

Receiving additional support

It’s perfectly fine in asking for help when you need it. If you’ve sustained physical injuries from lifting the person you cared for, consider asking your GP to refer you to a physiotherapist. You may also be entitled to additional benefits as a carer that you may not be aware of. Give us a call at 020 8868 5224 if you’re unsure, as you may be missing out on financial support.

You don’t need to feel guilty about accepting help. Remember that there is only so much you can do – try to accept that sometimes you may need help.

Taking Care of Yourself

Although caring is rewarding, it’s often extremely exhausting and can leave you with little time to yourself. It’s important you still make time for any interests and the things you love to do. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day – taking the time to care for yourself can go a long way. You are human too, after all. It could be reading a book, taking a hot bath, doing some gardening – whatever you fancy.

Staying connected with others

Keeping in contact with your friends and family can be a great way to let off steam. You can talk about your emotions and what you’re going through. If you don’t feel like talking, you could try reading books together, attending a pottery class, or playing games online.

You can also attend our group workshops at Harrow Carers. Our workshops provide an opportunity to meet other carers and share experiences. Remember that you aren’t alone and we’re here to help. Finding others in similar situations can be extremely rewarding and can help you both physically and emotionally. They’re likely to have gone through the same experiences as you – it’s a chance to let off steam, share frustrations or seek some advice.

Being an effective carer is difficult if you ignore your own health, as you may lose the ability to cope over time. Life is really challenging right now, but we’re always here to help. If you are a carer and require extra support, feel free to call us at 020 8868 5224.

Working for Carers is a London-wide project that supports unpaid carers, aged 25 or over, to move closer to employment. The project is led by Carers Trust and delivered by its network of partners across London. Working for Carers is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. Contact Working for Carers on 020 8868 5224 Ext 218/208.

How to Identify and Support Carers in the Workplace

How to Identify and Support Carers in the Workplace

Nearly a third of working carers have not discussed their caring role in the workplace, with a quarter giving up their career completely because of how difficult it is to combine work and care.

Carers play a fundamental role in our society. They strengthen family ties and help loved ones have a better quality of life. While it can be greatly rewarding, carers tend to neglect their own needs especially if they don’t receive the required support.

It’s important that carers are supported while they are at work while they juggle their caring responsibilities. They may have excellent transferable skills that would be an asset to any workplace, including their flexibility and practicality. But carers don’t want to be treated as a special case. Instead, they prefer understanding from their managers and support in managing their caring responsibilities.

 

How to Identify Carers

Who is a carer?

A carer is usually responsible for supporting and caring for their loved ones who are older, disabled or in a serious condition. Some carers provide daily care at their home for several hours, while others may have to travel to support their loved one on a weekly basis. This may involve doing the weekly shopping, helping them with administrating medicine or managing their finances.

Many do not see themselves as carers

Identifying carers can be difficult. In fact, many carers do not identify themselves as carers (“I’m just a wife, husband, friend, neighbour”) and may not wish to raise this situation with their managers. Others may be reluctant to reveal this information for fear of being stereotyped.

Employers owe it to their employees to create a safe environment for carers to be open, so that they can receive the best support possible. From a business perspective, carers who feel supported by their employers are likely to be less stressed, resulting in greater job performance and increased commitment to the organisation.

Look out for sudden behaviours

In the workplace, there are a few signs to look out for that an employee may be a carer. They may frequently be adjusting their working hours, or attending many appointments. They may also seem distressed or anxious, a behaviour which is noticeably different from their usual self.

Displaying carer information

It can also help to display additional posters and newsletters on staff notice boards, outlining some of the work-related benefits that carers may be entitled to. Self-identification is typically the most likely method of identification for a carer.

 

Supporting Carers at the Workplace

To best support carers at the workplace, employers should strive for a comfortable and reassuring environment where there is no stigma attached to carers identifying themselves.

Here are a few ways to go about this:

Introduce a carers policy

It can be valuable to place a policy on carers to demonstrate your support to employees with caring responsibilities. This can outline the range of support the company can provide, including adaptable working arrangements and career breaks. The existence of this policy should be communicated regularly to provide continuous support.

Introduce a flexible working approach

Flexible working can help carers balance their caring and work responsibilities. This approach allows employees to adjust their hours or place of work to better suit their needs, so that they can continue to work effectively. It could also involve job sharing, part-time working, or moving them into a less stressful role for the time-being.

Every caring situation and job is different, so what suits to one person might vary to what suits someone else.

Carers’ support network

Understanding that they are ‘not alone’ is a crucial element of support. Employers can provide information to carers about existing workplace carer support groups and what external support is available.  Even if this isn’t the type of peer support that carers want, signposting the support available can help break the isolation carers can experience. A great starting point would be to personally ask the carers what would work best for them.

 

Small changes can go a long way…

There are many ways employers can provide a supportive working environment for carers at their workplace. It doesn’t necessarily mean a major change in the organisation is required, rather a few small and simple adjustments can enable carers to feel secure and at ease at the workplace.

Working for Carers is a London-wide project that supports unpaid carers, aged 25 or over, to move closer to employment. The project is led by Carers Trust and delivered by its network of partners across London. Working for Carers is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. Contact Working for Carers on 020 8868 5224 Ext 218/208.

What to do when your caring role changes or ends

What to do when your caring role changes or ends

Your caring role may one day come to an end. The loved one you’re looking after may need to move into a care home, need more support, or sadly, they may die. It can be a tough, because for so long they were the focus of your life. Whatever the circumstances, you may be surprised at how drastic of an adjustment it can be. It’s a good idea to start preparing for the future – we share ways of how to adjust to these changes.

 

If the person you care for needs more assistance

There’s many reasons why you may not be able to continue caring for someone. Their health may have deteriorated and you can’t provide the additional time and energy, or you may even have your own health issues. At this point, it’s wise to think about finding another system of care.

Firstly, ask your local social services department to carry out a care needs assessment – you may find that they are entitled to additional benefits compared to before. It’s recommended to also get assessed yourself, as you may be entitled to extra financial and physical support.

 

If they need more intensive care

If you find that the person you care for needs more intensive support, then you may need to consider moving them into a care home. You may no longer be able to provide care due to other responsibilities, and perhaps you feel you have let your loved one down. But your well-being is important too, and there’s only so much you can do.

Just because they move into a care home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you stop being a carer. You may want to continue visiting the person and keep them company, or you may want to provide help whenever you can. It’ll help them get used to the new environment. If you still provide some care, again check with the local council as you may have access to additional carers’ rights and benefits.

 

If the person you cared for dies

The death of a loved one brings can bring about new feelings. You will naturally feel grief and loneliness from losing someone that was a big part of your life. If they were ill for a long time, you may even feel some relief. Everyone’s reaction and way of coping is completely different. Some find it easier to talk with friends and family who knew the person you cared for, so that you can all share happy memories. Others cope best on their own.

You may have to deal with the necessary practicalities, like organising a funeral or sorting out any financial issues. At Harrow Carers, we can offer advice about all of that and more. Give us a call at 020 8868 5224.

 

What happens now?

If your caring role has come to an end, naturally you would consider taking time off to recover, both mentally and physically. If caring was the main focus of your life, you may feel confused and a loss of purpose. You may also find yourself with lots of time on your hands but are unsure with what to do with it.

Before rushing into anything, be gentle and allow yourself to recover. Spend time with family and friends and do something you enjoy. It can help to reflect and look back on everything you’ve learned – all the good times you had and how well you coped. Think about all the skills you’ve developed and if there’s any opportunities out there to put them to good use.

When you’re ready, you may need to think about returning to work. You may want to return to the ‘normal’ life you had before caring or have a clean state, but have no idea where to start. That’s where we come in. The team at Harrow Carers can offer you individually tailored support regarding your career, application advice, interviews and much, much more…

Feel free to give us a ring at 020 8868 5224.

 

5 Strategies to Cope With Loneliness

5 Strategies to Cope With Loneliness

It’s natural for us to feel lonely, even more so during the pandemic. Having underlying health problems, additional caring responsibilities, or in the case of the pandemic, being physically isolated from others can all contribute. These are just some examples. There might not be a particular reason why you feel lonely and you don’t need to go looking for one. From all ages, people feel lonely for all sorts of reasons and find different ways to overcome it. Here are a few strategies that may help to combat loneliness.

Volunteer

Volunteering for a cause you believe in can make a real positive impact in your community. It can fight loneliness by increasing self-esteem, create meaningful experiences and allow you to meet people passionate about the same things as you. Additionally, helping those less fortunate than you can bring you a greater sense of gratitude for what you have in your life.

You can volunteer remotely or in real life, just be sure you’re working with others. Finding solutions together as a team can help you decrease loneliness.

Join a club

Whether it’s a book club, a workout session or a cooking class, joining groups based on your interests exposes you to new people and connections. Sure, it can be nerve-wracking to join a club for the first time, but you’re likely to find people who are welcoming and willing to help settle you in. Have a look through your local library to see what’s available, or explore virtual networking sites like Meetup.

Taking Care of Yourself

Maintaining good physical and mental health is more important than ever, especially when experiencing feelings of loneliness. Have a consistent sleep schedule and exercise regularly – the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week. Take regular walks in your local neighbourhood as an opportunity to slow down and reflect – use this time to also practice self-compassion. Try talking to yourself in a forgiving, kind and caring way; it’ll do wonders for your long-term mental health.

Learn a New Skill

Loneliness is usually something that is temporary, something all of us naturally experience when going through phases in life. Taking up a new hobby may help to distract yourself from those feelings of loneliness. Perhaps you want to learn a new language, or learn how to design websites. Whatever it may be, take some time to invest in yourself. Check out this website if you’re unsure of which skills to pursue.

Strengthen Existing Relationships

Humans have always been social creatures. Spending quality time with your friends and family is one of the best ways to reduce loneliness. Why not call up a loved one and tell them how great they are and how much you love their company. Be specific, mention what it is you love about them – it’ll make their day (and yours too!).

If you haven’t spoken to your loved ones in a long time, you might be struggling with motivation to reach out. Instead, it may be helpful to start slowly. Think of one friend or family who you could imagine reaching out to and give them a call. It’s so important that you make the first move.

 

At some point in our lives, we will feel lonely and it can be difficult to cope with. But there are things we can do to feel better, from volunteering and learning new skills to improving our connections with loved ones.

There’s also people who can help. Here are some amazing organisations and support groups that can offer expert advice if you’re suffering from loneliness or any other issues. If you’re a carer suffering from any mental health issues, we can offer you free advice and support at 020 8868 5224.

 

 

 

How to Get Out of Debt as a Carer

How to Get Out of Debt as a Carer

Anyone can fall into debt. As a carer, it’s just one of those things that happens without your notice, or may even feel as if it’s out of your control. You may have had to give up work and faced the extra costs of utilities, food and disability-related spending.  Even so, getting out of debt and staying out is possible – but you have to take the first step. If you don’t know where to start, feel free to contact Harrow Carers at 020 8868 5224 for free advice about managing your debt. We’ll also let you know if you are entitled to any disability and carers’ benefits, or any employment rights if you are currently working. Nevertheless, here are some strategies you can start to implement today to get out of debt.

1. Understanding What Debt You Have

Understanding the type of debt you have, and how it happened can allow you to create a plan for paying it off and staying debt-free. Not all debts are created equally, and some are considered better than others (a mortgage, for example). At Harrow Carers, we can help you to understand your debt, create a budget to help track your expenses, and develop a debt repayment plan. 

2. Tracking All Your Debts

It can be easy to lose track of how much you owe, especially if you have more than one type of debt. A debt tracker can be useful to regain control of your finances, and you can watch all your hard work pay off. 

Make a list of all your debts. You can use a free pre-existing template or do it yourself on Excel. Write down how much you currently owe, the interest rate for each debt, and the minimum payment required for each month. Use recent billing statements, credit reports and bank statements to help you with this.

3. Prioritise debts with the highest interest rate

By listing all your debts, you can now calculate the total amount you owe. We can now accelerate your debt-free journey by sending more than the minimum payment to at least one of your accounts each month. 

Use a monthly budget to calculate all your monthly income and expenses (including the minimum payments). Any amount left over, put some of it towards any of one of your debts. It’s recommended to choose the debt with the highest interest rate as this will save you the most money in the long run. Again, feel free to contact us at 020 8868 5224 if you’re not sure which debts to prioritise.

4. Building an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is money you’ve set aside for—you’ve guessed it— an emergency. While caring for a loved one, you might run into unexpected circumstances. Your car might break down or you may be laid off from work. As you work towards paying off your debt, it’s recommended to put money aside in a separate account as an emergency fund. If you are in debt, start saving towards £1000, but once out of debt, build this account to cover 3-6 months worth of living expenses. A completed emergency fund will give you the flexibility to tackle unexpected expenses, which makes it less likely you’ll go back into debt again.

You can read more about emergency funds here.

 

Becoming debt-free can be a difficult process, but there are lots of free and professional help out there. The most important thing is to take action now. Delaying to managing your debts and finances will only make matters worse in the long-run.

If you are a carer and struggling with your debts or have any other enquiries, don’t hesitate to contact Harrow Carers at 020 8868 5224 for free and independent advice.