If you care for a partner, relative or friend we understand that you’ll be busy, so we've created a practical guide on how to look after yourself, with tips on how to make life easier.
On this page we give you information about:
1. Leisure activities
2. Healthy eating
3. Taking a break from caring
If you’re a carer it can be difficult to find time for yourself, but remember that your health is important too. If you're happy and well, you’re better able to provide help and support to others.
Try to make time for your own interests whenever you can. If you spend a lot of time thinking about, or caring for, someone else, a bit of ‘me time’ can do you the world of good and help to recharge your batteries.
Of course, finding that spare time is easier said than done. You might find it helpful to have a plan of action to make sure you have time for your leisure activities. Setting aside a few hours every week when you do a class or activity can be a way of achieving that.
If the person you're caring for needs continuous care, talk to another relative or friend to see if they can take over caring duties for an hour or two a week. Our guide to Respite care can also give you useful advice on how to arrange short- or long-term respite care.
- Keeping fit: exercise isn’t just good for your physical health, it can be a way to relieve stress, boost your self-esteem and make you happier too. Try to make time for something you enjoy, whether that’s running, swimming, yoga or simply a gentle stroll in the park. If you prefer to work out with someone else, have a look at local classes, gyms, walking groups or speak to friends to see if anyone fancies joining you.
- Hobbies: joining a class can be a really good way of meeting other people, learning new skills or doing an activity that you love. Perhaps you like painting or photography? Or maybe you’d like to learn more about computers, first aid or study a new language? If classes aren’t your thing, reading books by your favourite authors or indulging in a spot of gardening might be a good way for you to relax.
- See your friends: try meeting friends or family members over an afternoon coffee or go out for dinner. It will give you a chance to talk about things other than your caring responsibilities.
- Learning something new: your local library can provide information about social activities, events, education and courses. The University of the Third Age (U3A) can tell you about courses in your area.
The carer's assessment can be a good way to access leisure activities. For example, if the local authority decides that you have eligible needs, it might provide funding for a gym membership or regular respite care so that you can pursue your interests.
Your local carers' organisation will have details of activities for carers in your area. You can search for local carers' groups using our Care services directory and going to support services.
We all know that healthy eating is important, but if you're busy cooking and shopping for someone else it can be easy to let your own eating habits slip. A balanced diet is good for your all-round health, fitness and wellbeing.
Here are a few quick tips on how to make healthy eating easier to fit into your daily life.
- Plan meals: deciding what to cook every day can be a pain, particularly if you are busy. One solution is to plan your meals in advance. Sit down once a week and make a list of meals for the next seven days and then shop for the ingredients all at once. You're less likely to forget things if you shop with a list. And you’re more likely to eat a proper meal if everything you need is already in your cupboards or fridge.
- Online shopping: if you find it difficult to get out to the supermarket, online shopping can be quick and easy. You can shop from the comfort of your own home at any time of the day or night, and food is delivered straight to your door. Which? members can read our monthly comparison of supermarkets to see which supermarkets rate the best, and worst, for online shopping.
- Batch cooking: if you’re busy caring, you’re unlikely to have time to produce top-quality meals every night of the week. Batch cooking is a great way to prepare meals in advance. Cook a huge casserole, shepherd's pie, Bolognese sauce, curry or chilli, and then freeze portions to take out and heat up when you're hungry.
Taking a break from caring
If you provide care for a relative, friend or neighbour, there will be times when you need to take a break: to attend appointments, go to a class or simply to take time out. You might want to arrange alternative care for the person you care for – either in their own home or somewhere else. Or you could arrange a respite holiday – either for yourself, the person you care for or both of you together.
- Read more about the respite care options available, how to choose and finance this type of care, and what benefits it can offer you and the person you care for in our guide to Respite care.
- If you're juggling work and caring responsibilities, you might wish to explore Flexible working or Taking a longer break from work.
If you haven’t had a carer's assessment, it’s worth getting one, as many local authorities can offer respite care to those who are eligible for help.
- Activities for someone with dementia: if you’re looking after someone with memory problems, read about activities the two of you might enjoy doing together.
- Benefits for carers: find out what financial help is available to you.
- Your relative moves in with you: make sure you know all the benefits and drawbacks of living with the person you care for.
Page first published: July 2017
Next review due: January 2020