Carers: looking after yourself
Supporting a person with dementia can be positive and rewarding, but it can also be challenging. Looking after yourself is important for both you and the person you are supporting.
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Supporting a person with dementia can be positive and rewarding, but it can also be very challenging. You may feel a wide range of emotions. You may also not have time to do all the things you need to do.
The needs of the person you are supporting will often come before your own needs. This can make it difficult for you to look after yourself properly. You may also feel it’s not always possible to make time for yourself. However looking after yourself is important for both you and the person you are supporting. If you stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy you will be in a better position to support the person with dementia. It can also help you to have a better relationship with them.
This page explains ways of looking after yourself if you’re supporting a person with dementia. It looks at challenges you might face and how to cope with them. It also explains what help and support is available.
If you are supporting a person with dementia you might not see yourself as being their ‘carer’. You might first and foremost think of yourself as being their partner, spouse, family member or friend. But even if you choose not to identify as a ‘carer’ you may still find this factsheet relevant and helpful. It can also be helpful if you use the word ‘carer’ when you talk to professionals because it can help you get the right support.
Being a carer
There are lots of positive things about caring for a person with dementia, including:
- learning new skills
- improving your existing skills
- caring for a person who has cared for you in the past
- strengthening your relationships
- feeling proud of how you are helping
- supporting a person who is important to you.
You can also look for ways to continue to share good times and have positive experiences with the person you are caring for.
However, caring for a person with dementia can also be physically and mentally exhausting. Even when you are doing well with the challenges you are facing, you may not feel you are doing enough. Caring often affects every part of life and it can make people feel isolated, stressed and overwhelmed. It can even make some people feel hopeless or depressed. You also need to look after your own physical and mental health needs. You and other people may overlook these when you are caring for someone else.
Everyone will experience caring in their own way. There may be days when you feel you can cope well and other days when you feel that you can’t. There may be some parts of caring that you can find easy to manage but others that you find difficult. This can change from day to day, which can also be very challenging.
However being a carer affects you, try to learn ways to cope with some of the things you find difficult. The next section 'Your health and wellbeing' looks at some common feelings that carers may have. It then suggests ways you can try to cope with challenges and improve your own health and wellbeing. It also describes different types of help and support available, and how the caring role can change as dementia progresses.
Read our practical guide to caring for a person with dementia
You can find more advice and information on caring for a person with dementia in our booklet 600, 'Caring for a person with dementia: A practical guide'.