Carers Support Centre offers tips on looking after your relationship as a carer.
‘I love them, but…’ How caring can affect your relationship
Valentine’s Day presents an idealised view of what relationships should look like. A caring role doesn’t often come into that picture, yet three in five of us will care for a friend, family member, partner or neighbour at some point in our lives.
It's OK to find it hard
Any relationship has its ups and downs, but throwing in a caring role can create additional problems. Of course caring can be rewarding, but it also can lead to resentment, frustration, tiredness and stress. The person you care for may feel embarrassed or guilty about needing support, or struggle to recognise that they need extra help.
If you are finding it hard, you aren’t alone. According to Carers UK research, almost half of carers say they’ve faced relationship difficulties because of their caring role.
Support with your relationship
Despite the obvious challenges, there are things you can do to help your relationship. Carers Trust has an online tool to help you handle common issues carers may experience in their relationship with their partner, covering topics such as guilt and resentment, difficulties with intimacy and how to have a healthy argument (it is possible!) Relate also has advice on building strong relationships.
If you are really struggling, you may find relationship counselling helpful. Relate provides relationship counselling across the UK - call Relate on 0300 100 1234 or visit their website to find your nearest Relate counselling service.
Not caring for a partner?
Caring for someone who isn’t a partner can impact other relationships too. For example, if you care for an elderly relative, you may have less time to spend with your family. It might feel hard to find the time, but try to book a date night in the diary. This can be as simple as curling up in front of the TV with your partner, or taking time to play that computer game your child is really into. Planning special time to do this can have a really beneficial impact on your relationships and help you feel like you are making positive steps.
It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re a carer, so don’t be afraid to reach out to supportive friends and family members when you need help. If you feel like you have no one to contact, try making a list of all the people in your life and stick it up on your fridge – it might surprise you!
Carers often receive general offers of help from family and friends without any follow-up, which can lead to friction and increase your sense of isolation. Be clear and specific about what you want the person to do; for example, ask if they could call once a week or help out with practical tasks such as shopping or cleaning.
Sometimes, the support of our social network is not enough. If you need professional one-to-one help, Mind in Croydon offer six free counselling sessions to carers in Croydon. Call the Counselling team on 020 8763 2064 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also talk to an Advice Worker at the Carers Support Centre for general support and advice.
Reflect on the good times
Sometimes, our caring relationship means we forget what life was like before the other person’s health changed. Reminiscing can help you remember what you love about the other person, so dig out old photo albums or listen to music you once enjoyed together.
Take care of yourself too
Taking regular time to do something relaxing just for you can make a big difference to your general wellbeing, as well as your relationship. The Carers Support Centre offers a range of health and wellbeing activities for Croydon carers, as well as a Carers Café where you can enjoy free refreshments and chat to our volunteers.
If you feel you need a short break from caring, you may be able to arrange respite so you can have time off. Download our Getting Support from Social Care factsheet for more information or contact Whitgift Care for more information on their 1596 Club Day Care service.
It’s not always easy
Caring isn’t always easy, and it can take a while to adjust. But you don’t have to do it alone. If you care for someone in Croydon, contact the Carers Support Centre for information, advice and support. You can also sign up to our e-bulletin and newsletter for the latest local events for carers.