Caring for yourself – advice for families

Many people find caring for a loved one with dementia a rewarding and positive experience, but even the most optimistic of people can find it difficult, both emotionally and physically, from time to time.

In the vast majority of cases, the priority is always on the person being cared for, meaning that the carers themselves often forget to prioritise their own needs, whether this is due to lack of time, or feeling as though it is selfish to put their own needs first.

A good analogy is the pre-flight briefing given on commercial aeroplanes, where we are instructed to ‘fit our own oxygen masks before helping others.’ This highlights the fact that you need to be a healthy and happy person yourself in order to be an effective carer.

Many sons, daughters, wives, or husbands do not see themselves as carers despite the nature of their role and the new relationship they might now have with their loved one. In many ways they are still a child or spouse of the person needing care, but that relationship has fundamentally changed. Realising and accepting this can help you to ensure that you take some time for yourself.

Being a carer

Once you identify yourself as being a carer you can think of ways to help yourself and make caring for a person living with dementia easier, including:

Speak to your GP – Your GP is there to help, not just the person you are caring for but also for yourself. If you are finding life difficult and you are getting overwhelmed or unwell, make an appointment and discuss with them how the caring is impacting your own health. They will have helped a great deal of other people in similar situations and will be able to offer you advice and support.

Ensure you get sufficient sleep

Make sure to prioritise your sleep schedule, along with regular rest opportunities. Try and keep to a regular bedtime with a good bedtime routine that will support you to sleep well each night. If you are struggling to fall asleep, or stay asleep, speak to your GP and they will be able to offer advice and support.

Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating well will help keep you healthy, mentally, and physically, which is essential if you are to provide the best care to your loved one.

Ask for help

Ask for assistance from any friends or relatives that live nearby. Be honest with them about how you feel, if you need help or if you are struggling to cope.  Also speak to the Local Authority in case you are entitled to any support.

Consider Respite Care

Often carers can continue to effectively support their loved ones if they get occasional breaks themselves. Respite care in a residential home should be considered as part of your long-term plan.

Find time for yourself

Taking some time away from your caring duties is an important part of your overall plan. Make sure you do something fun, enjoyable, or relaxing, maybe start a new hobby or activity. You can find out some information about classes or clubs from your local library.

But even if you do not have the time for an activity or class, simply taking ten minutes whenever you can to have a cup of tea or get some fresh air can really help.


Caring for a person living with dementia is mentally and physically exhausting, even when things are going well. Carers often feel isolated, stressed, and overwhelmed, which can lead to problems with both mental and physical health. Therefore, it is vital that carers prioritise their own health as well as that of the person they are caring for.

For more information or if you wish to discuss care for your loved one please email