DEVOTED Carers can find it very hard to take time off.
Unless it’s their profession, carers often don’t ask to be carers. Many times it’s a role that they fall into because of circumstances and life’s curveballs.
It starts out as the right thing to do. Of course you will care for your loved one. Why wouldn’t you? You love them, and you care about their quality of life. No one is better placed than you to give them the time, care and attention they require.
Lots of days you enjoy the role. Most days you just get on with it without giving it too much thought. Other days you hate been a carer and what it has done to your life.
Being a carer usually takes up a lot of time, day and night. It can be exhausting. When carers get a break, they can’t believe how refreshed and good they feel when they return to the role. In fact, with regular breaks, the role of carer becomes much more manageable.
However, carers can find it very hard to take time off. It is not that carers think they are the only ones that can do the job (even though sometimes this is the case). Nor is it that they don’t want a break.
The thing is, when you do something 24/7, running on empty, you tend to just get your head down, get stuck in and get on with it. This feels like the only way to keep going. Sometimes, there’s a fear that if you stop at all, you will become overwhelmed and unable to continue – that a breakdown is inevitable … and what then? Then there would be two people who need taking care of. No, better to just keep on keeping on.
People who don’t care for someone else often say things like ‘Sleep when you can’, ‘Get out for a walk’, ‘Talk to someone’, ‘Watch TV’, ‘Have a night out’. While this is all meant in a caring way, it doesn’t take into account that it actually takes quite a lot for the carer to relax. They can’t fall asleep when they close their eyes. They can’t concentrate on what is on the TV. They can’t drink too much when they go out because they are back on caring duty that night or the next day.
In fact, if a carer gets some time off, it can take nearly the whole week before he or she relaxes. The body is so wound up, so tense and ready for action, that it can take considerable time to get it to calm down.
This is exactly the reason why it is so important to take breaks away from caring – breaks that are long enough that they allow the body to relax.
If you are a carer, remember that you are as important as the person you are caring for. You need to give yourself the same level of care and attention. If you find this difficult, it is vital that you ask someone to help you. Ask them to make you take time off. Because usually a carer puts themselves last on the list of priorities, and they will need someone to remind them that they are important too.
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.