It is quite normal to feel sad and miserable at times, but if you feel really down for more than a few weeks and notice that your mood is affecting your everyday life, you are probably suffering from depression. The following well-known acronym, FESTIVAL describes common signs of depression. It is recognised that if you suffer with 5 or more of the symptoms for more than 2 weeks, you should visit your doctor for help.
F eeling – down, depressed and bored
E nergy – lacking, tired with every movement an effort
S leep – disturbed patterns with difficulty getting to sleep, night waking and oversleeping in the morning
T hinking – difficulty with concentration and forgetful
I nterest – loss of interest in life in general
V alue – low self esteem
A ches – headaches and other pains without any physical cause
L ive – not wanting to live, feeling suicidal
It’s not hard to understand why so many carers suffer from back problems. If your loved one has mobility problems, you probably have to help them out of bed, in and out of chairs, into the bath and onto the loo or commode. These are tasks which no professional is allowed to do without a colleague to share the load.
If the person you care for has had a care assessment, where it has been noticed that help is required for mobility, you should be provided with a mechanical hoist. This doesn’t remove all strain from your back but is a great help. Unfortunately, using a hoist is fiddly, unwieldy and time-consuming so carers often resort to moving their loved one manually. Although you may think this is quicker and more pleasant for your loved one, eventually you will harm your back. It makes far more sense to get into the habit of using the hoist. If you do suffer a serious back injury, it will stop you caring for your loved one at all.
Anxiety and stress are other common problems for carers. If you are no longer working, you may be worried about financial problems (the carer’s allowance is no compensation for a full-time salary) and if your loved one’s condition is deteriorating, you will probably be worrying about the future. You may also be concerned that if your health failed, what would happen to your loved one. Anxiety is an emotion that cannot easily be remedied, but you need to remember that you can only do your best and worrying about the future will not change it.
In our society, we are often labelled and judged by what we do for a living. Although being a carer is a very worthwhile occupation, it is not generally valued or even fully recognised by those who have never experienced it. In addition, it is not a job that you have chosen – you have simply accepted that your loved one needs to be looked after and got on with it. But looking after someone day in, day out is a lonely experience and it is important that you maintain a life for yourself. You may find it rewarding to meet with other carers to discuss common problems and offer support to each other. There are many different carer support groups, some allied to specific illnesses like alzheimers or MS; your doctor or social worker should have details of local groups.
Your health is vital for your loved one’s welfare. It is important that you eat a good diet, get exercise and keep your spirits up as much as you can. If you need a break, involve the doctor and social services and make it clear that you need some respite care for your loved one. You are performing a fantastic public duty in devoting your life to caring for another person, but you cannot do it alone. Make sure that to some extent at least, the care is shared and that you can maintain your own health and some outside interests.
Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Nearest Railway Station – Elephant & Castle
Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45