As regular readers of this blog know, I cared for my father for 19 years during his vascular dementia. For the majority of that time, however, I never considered myself a carer - just a daughter looking after her dad. As I said in my G8 Dementia Summit film, "You become a carer, but you don't realise you've become a carer."
For UK Carers Week 2014, I want to focus on questions carers often ask me, and indeed many questions I frequently asked myself during my father’s dementia.
Day 3 - What about my emotions?
In my second blog post for Carers Week I wrote about some of the emotional reactions carers can have. There are numerous documented accounts of how carers have become emotionally drained (an example here), and many a health or social care professional will be familiar with the emotional breakdown that carers can have when their caring role feels overwhelming.
For some carers, having a person listen to how they are feeling can be very cathartic. Listening is such a simple thing, yet most of us often find ourselves too busy to stop and take time to hear how someone is really feeling. Many a carer has said they are ‘fine’ when asked, even though deep down they are anything but. No one should be sobbing into their pillow at night because no one can hear their cry for help.
What most carers are desperate to avoid is breaking down in front of the person they are caring for. There was many a time when I fled to the bathroom to avoid my dad seeing me cry. I can testify that it is immensely difficult to control your emotions to the point where the person you are caring for never sees that you are upset, especially when very often that person would be the one individual who, perhaps under different circumstances, would be the person most likely to listen and comfort you.
You may find other family members or friends don’t understand how you are feeling emotionally, or how going without sleep, becoming exhausted and perhaps feeling poorly yourself can impact on your ability to feel emotionally strong. Most of us have a tipping point, when one too many difficulties or battles just tips us over the edge and into either anger or upset. Don’t be too hard on yourself in those times – letting your emotions out is better than bottling them up. For anyone caring for a loved one with dementia, my blog posts ‘Dementia’s emotional rollercoaster’ and ‘A sense of loss’ may help.
D4Dementia: 'Caring for carers'
D4Dementia: 'Be inspired, be very inspired'D4Dementia: 'The carer's job description'
All D4Dementia blog posts for Carers, including many with tips and advice on coping with particular aspects of your loved one's dementia
Dementia Action Alliance Carers' Call to Action: http://www.dementiaaction.org.uk/carers
Carers UK: http://www.carersuk.org/
Carers Trust: http://www.carers.org/
Carers Direct: http://www.nhs.uk/carersdirect/Pages/CarersDirectHome.aspx
Carers Week: http://www.carersweek.org/
Next post on 12 June 2014.
Next post on 12 June 2014.
You can follow me on Twitter: @bethyb1886