Emotional support for carers
The feelings caused by a serious illness can be very strong and can affect a person’s behaviour. The person who is ill may be worried, upset or angry; they may cry a lot, or withdraw so that you find it difficult to talk to them, support them or know what they want or need. You may think that there are things you should say or do that will automatically make things easier for the person. If you want to help someone who is facing a difficult time, just wanting to help and offering to be there for that person is what matters most.
Many people find it difficult to talk to a person who has a life-limiting illness. You may feel you might say the wrong thing or will not be able to talk to the person the way you used to, know what to say or what you can do to help. Many carers and families of a seriously ill person feels like this, even if they are used to dealing with difficult issues in their work lives or in other circumstances -it is very different when it is a personal situation. But by just listening to them talk about their illness and surrounding issues, you can help build a relationship between you both that allows you to be supportive and to ask and know what your relative or friend needs.
Caring for yourself
As a carer, it is important that you pay attention not only to the wellbeing of the person you care for but also to your own emotional health and wellbeing as being a carer can be emotionally and physically demanding. It is important to acknowledge these feelings and share them with those that can help. This could be with a friend or family member or another carer, carer support worker, GP or counsellor. Support groups and carers events can be beneficial for discussing your worries or fears or sharing practical advice with other carers in similar roles.
Local support groups and events for carers
These groups discuss matters which affect the everyday life of a carer and the people they care for – everything from home security and carers rights to complementary therapies. Carer support group meetings are held across the Northern Trust.
Taking a break from caring
Both you and the person you care for may benefit if you can take a short-term break from caring from time to time. This is sometimes known as respite care. Speak to your GP or social worker about this.
The Macmillan Unit offers respite for families and carers for patients with complex palliative care needs when no other facility is available. T: 028 9442 4394.
The Northern Ireland Hospice provides respite for those within the Northern Trust who care for an adult or child with a life-limiting illness. They provide carers with the opportunity to meet other people going through the same emotional difficulties at this time in their lives. T: 028 9078 1836
Marie Curie Cancer Care provides information and support to carers and provides complementary therapy sessions that are available to both patients and carers. T: 028 9088 2018.
Antrim Area Hospital and Causeway Hospital have a special Chaplaincy Service that provides spiritual support for patients and their families and are available in the event of a death or for bereavement support. Chaplains can be contacted through any member of the hospital healthcare staff involved in the care of a palliative patient, carers and families.