1.3 Improving physical well-being
Being physically healthy is hugely important. Having a healthy body means you are equipped to deal with the challenges of everyday life, fight off illnesses and function well, allowing you to do the things you want to do. Many physical health conditions are preventable, and being fully aware of potential problems gives you a true choice in whether or not to take on board the information and act to change things.
A balanced diet and regular exercise is a good starting point for looking after your physical health. Caring for others can be exhausting and time-consuming, resulting in constant tiredness, sluggishness and general apathy (that ‘can’t be bothered’ feeling), which can affect work, relationships and many other areas of life. This can also hold back your motivation for getting started on any plans to improve your lifestyle, so taking care of your physical health is an excellent first step to taking care of other areas of your life.
Good physical health is something achievable by everyone, no matter what the starting point. With so much (often conflicting) information in these health-conscious times, we could do with some sensible guidance.
The carers.uk website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] has a great deal of helpful information about looking after your physical health if you are caring for others. This information applies whether you are caring for loved ones at home or if you are working in the social care services.
Some of the most commonly occurring physical problems for carers are not getting enough sleep, back pain and damage to your back.
If you are not getting enough sleep you may find that you are constantly tired, go to sleep during the day, have trouble concentrating and making decisions, and feeling depressed. Long-term lack of sleep may also increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Lifting and moving the person you care for, and helping them dress can all place a strain on your back. However, knowing how to protect your back can help to keep it in good shape. If you are a paid carer, it is a legal requirement for you to receive training and support in manual handling tasks. Unpaid carers can also access training, so if you regularly have to lift the person you care for, help them to sit or stand, or help them in and out of bed, your local support group or council should be able to tell you about training opportunities in how to lift and move more safely to reduce the risk of harming your back. Alternatively, your district nurse or community support team may be able to show you ways to lift and move more safely. Ask your doctor for more information.
There are many other services that can support you in your caring role and in looking after your own health. These include occupational therapists, physiotherapists, continence advisers and dieticians.