What challenges do carers face?
Caring for someone else can often be demanding, and you are not alone if you feel overwhelmed at times. You might find some parts of life challenging and this may leave you feeling stressed and isolated. Over time, this can lead to mental health problems. If you already live with a mental health problem, being a carer could affect your ability to stay well.
If you are caring for someone, you may face the following challenges:
Stress and worry
You may often feel stressed and worried if you’re caring for someone else. You could spend a lot of time thinking about their illness and the impact it is having on both of your lives. You may always be thinking about things you need to do as part of your role as a carer, and find it hard to switch off. You may have difficulty sleeping, be eating too much or too little and find your mood is affected.
If you feel this way over a long period of time, it can have a big impact on your mental health and you can become unwell.
Many people find it hard to make time to socialise or carry on with hobbies or interests. You may also feel guilty if you take time for yourself. You may feel like your life is very different from other people’s, and that they don’t understand how you are feeling. If you feel worried that you or the person you care for might face stigma, you may find it hard to let people know that you are a carer. This can make you feel very lonely.
Over time, social isolation can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
“You feel like your peers cannot relate to what you have to deal with at home. You are envious of people around you that have a ‘normal’ life, especially if you have no other family support.”
You may find that you need to pay for extra care or medical costs. You may be spending lots of money on travel costs, especially if you don’t live with the person you care for. This can put a strain on your finances, and may mean you have to cut back on other things, causing practical issues and additional stress. You may also find that you are not receiving enough financial support or benefits in order to meet these costs, and experience financial worries. Many carers struggle to cover costs, and get into debt.
Physical health problems
Caring can be physically demanding. If your role as carer involves lifting or carrying, you could suffer from aches and pains, particularly in your back. You may feel run down and tired a lot of the time. This can make you more likely to experience physical illness, which could develop into a long-term problem. You may not have enough time to be physically active or to cook healthy food.
“Despite having physical health problems myself, I care for my sister and my elderly parents. I get so tired and have little help. I wish I could have a week off and just sleep. But you just have to keep going.”
You may find that the challenges you face while being a carer make you feel low or depressed. If you feel very frustrated or hopeless, you may also have thoughts of harming yourself or even of ending your life. You may also develop unhelpful coping strategies to deal with these difficult feelings, such as using drugs or alcohol, or eating more or less than you need to.
Frustration and anger
You may often feel very frustrated and angry, especially if you have had to give up parts of your own life. Or, you might feel that you have been given no choice about becoming a carer.
You might end up directing this anger at family or at the person you care for. This could make you feel guilty.
Being a carer can have a big impact on your self-esteem. You may feel that you are not worthy of care and attention, and that all your time should be focused on the person you care for. You may find it hard to interact socially, or feel that you are missing out on parts of having a normal life.
You may lose confidence in yourself and your abilities to do anything outside of your caring responsibilities.
“I got no support and didn’t really know there was anywhere or anyone I could turn to. It had a huge impact on my mental health. I developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety and depression. ”