As a carer, it is important to look after yourself, your own health and well-being are just as important as the person you take care of. Your ability to look after others will be affected if your own health and well-being are not prioritised. Telling your GP that you are an unpaid carer will help them to understand and support you better.
Why is physical health important?
Carers are twice as likely to suffer from ill-health as non-carers. More than half of those who provide more substantial care have suffered physical ill-health as a result of caring, and more than 70 per cent of those caring round the clock have suffered mental ill-health at some time.
Our physical health affects our ability to take care of our mental health and visa versa. Taking better care of our bodies means increased energy levels, and a better ability to accomplish our daily goals. It means better ability to concentrate on any given task, and that our tasks will take less time to complete.
We all know the basics for looking after our physical health, use the links to access a range of helpful information to get you on the right tracks:
- Move more
- Drink less alcohol
- Reduce caffeine
- Eat healthily
- Stop smoking
- Sleep well
Speak with your GP if you are struggling to manage any of the above on your own. You can also ask at your GP practice for a health check.
Your own medical appointments might not seem like a priority. But if you put off seeing your GP or dentist, any problems could get worse.
Carers are a flu vaccine priority group, so you are entitled to get this for free by asking at your GP practice. This vaccine is important for you as a preventative measure for the person you care for.
Carers are included in priority group 6 for the Covid-19 vaccine. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that carers who are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer contracted Covid-19 should be included in Priority 6 alongside people with underlying conditions for the Covid-19 vaccination (see Table 3 of the Green Book). Book your Covid-19 vaccine.
1. Move more
If you’re starting to exercise for the first time or changing the type or amount of exercise you do, you might want to speak to your GP first.
Swimming, walking, running, dancing and cycling can all help to keep you fit and strengthen your back. Aim for 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of exercise a week. You could exercise for 30 minutes five days a week or break it up further into 10-minute bursts that you can fit into your day. Yoga and Pilates can also help to keep you strong.
Exercising from home
It is not always possible to get outdoors and take the time away from your commitments to exercise however there are tools available to help you to keep fit at home whether on your own or by doing activities with the person you care for it they are able. Below are some activities you can try. Make sure you stop if you are feeling any pain or lightheaded and make sure to rest and stay hydrated.
If you have mobility problems or are an exercise beginner, the NHS website has some easy to follow seated exercises you can do at home at any time. The instructions can be viewed online or downloaded and printed.
Youtube is a great place to find a wide range of free guided exercise routines including aerobics, chair exercises, yoga, pilates and much more. It is always easier to participate in any exercise when you enjoy it so it may be worth trying a few different video's and find a trainer that you connect with. Popular trainers include Joe Wicks (The Body Coach), Yoga with Adriene, Kayla Itsines, The Girl with the Pilates Mat. You can search for content such as '10 minute workouts' or 'full body stretch' and give different videos a try.
Carers Together have teamed up with Whippet UP to deliver Monday Moves, a relaxed and guided movement session. Upcoming sessions: Mondays 2.00pm - 3.00pm 19th and 26th April. Book your place by calling Carers Together: 01642 488977.
The fantastic team at Kinship Active (a local Grandparents Plus project) share videos of themselves keeping active at home which you can join along with. The project is specifically aimed at people who are raising their family of friends child (or children) when parents are unable to provide care and support, also know as Kinship Carers. The videos and inspiration to keep active are available through their private Facebook page which you can join by contacting Jane Harmer 07943 865601. Jane has kindly shared this fab video to encourage everyone to keep moving whilst at home, give it a try!
- Chair squats (sit to stand)
- The Stork (single leg stands)
- Wall snow angels
- Wall push-ups
- Overhead lifts
- Stair stepping
Take a look at this short video from Keeping Well at Home which shows Val and Imran at the Live Well Centre as they show us some movements for balance and also get some mental wellbeing tips from Richie:
Carers UK is delivering weekly Hatha Yoga sessions for beginners. Hatha yoga is the overarching umbrella of yoga that encompasses most of the traditional styles, it places special emphasis on controlled breathing and posture. These sessions provide carers with the opportunity to connect with others and practice some relaxing yoga techniques for beginners. Book your place now and see what other events Carers UK are delivering that you can engage with.
Getting active with your loved ones
You may be looking for ways in which you can get active with the person you care for or other families members. Doing so using the above tools may not be realistic. There are some fantastic sources of information and advice on adapting exercises to suit.
We Are Undefeatable has a range of resources and ideas to help people who are managing a long term health condition, or disability find ways of adapting activities to suit and prevent aggravating conditions.
The NHS website has some useful information for getting active if you have a disability or long-term health condition.
If you can there are many benefits from exercising outdoors particularly to your mental wellbeing.
Walking is simple, free and can be one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. Take a look at the NHS Active 10 App which can help you to monitor and gradually increase your brisk walking over time. If running is something you would like to start trying or revisiting you could try the NHS Couch to 5K programme which provides a free weekly plan for people who are new to running.
Carers Together organise walking groups, providing an opportunity for carers to come together, access support, create friendships and make the most of the beautiful spaces on our doorsteps. All upcoming events and activities can be found on their website, pre-booking is required.
Here are some further resources that can help:
Middlesbrough Live Well Centre have a range of services aimed to inspire you to live your healthiest, happiest life.
You've Got This Facebook page provides real ideas for real people who want to be more active.
Join the Movement is a Sport England campaign aimed at helping us all find ways to get active as we deal with coronavirus restrictions. The campaign is all about simple, fun and free ways to get active, both indoors and outdoors, that you can enjoy safely. #Jointhemovement
2. Drink less alcohol
Middlesbrough Recovering Together offers a free and confidential drug and alcohol service for adults and young people who live in Middlesbrough. Have a look at their youtube channel for advice, tips and information. Contact the team 01642 876323 or email on Middlesbrough.firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Are With You provide services in Redcar & Cleveland for both adults and young people (under 18's) with drug or alcohol issues. Free and confidential support is also available if you have concerns about a loved ones drug or alcohol use. Contact 0300 3033781 for support.
3. Reduce caffeine
Caffine, when consumed excessivly can have some side effects including anxiety, restlessness, tremors, irregular heartbeat, and trouble sleeping. Too much caffeine has also been linked to headaches, migraine, and high blood pressure in some individuals. Being mindful of the amount of caffeine you consume and consciously making small changes can make a significant difference to your health and well-being. Read further advice on how to reduce or even quit your caffeine intake if this is something affecting your health.
4. Eat healthily
The BBC Good Food Guide offers advice on discovering your recommended daily amounts of various nutrients, how to serve perfect portions and which recipes to make to keep you happy and healthy and has been developed by a range of experts.
5. Stop smoking
Are you wanting to quit smoking but finding it difficult or not sure where to start? Support is available. Stop Smoking South Tees can help you. Due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak they are unable to offer face to face consultations but can carry out phone consultations for any clients wishing to stop smoking. To get support from them, you can call 01642 727579 or fill in our online form to refer yourself.
6. Sleep well
Getting a good night sleep is not as easy as it may sound. You may have caring responsibilities that mean you have a disturbed night or you may struggle to switch off at the end of the day. Either way there are ways of improving the quality of your sleep. Take a look at Help Guide for some guidance and advice to help you.
You can also take a look at the video created by Every Mind Matters on improving sleep:
Have you heard of Dr Chatterjee? He is a medical doctor with over 16 years of experience who is on a mission to empower each of us to be the architects of our own health. Dr Chatterjee creates weekly podcast's which are centred on his 4 pillars of health: Food, Movement, Sleep and Relaxation. The podcast is great for information, motivation and education. Have a listen.