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No-one wants to imagine a time in their life when a loved one needs real care. We don’t like to think of what it would be like if a person we know and care for, needs professional help. However, care is a part of so many people’s lives and can bring support to more than just their service user. A sometimes-overlooked part of bringing in live-in carers is the emotional impact it can have on the families and friends of the person receiving care. Mental health is thankfully becoming a more talked about subject, and with that in mind, it’s crucial to consider how caring for someone can affect a relative’s mental health and emotional well-being. The families and friends are facing their own battles when they are looking after someone with a serious illness, and need to know the different mechanisms in place to help.
A common instance where this is felt is when an elderly person has dementia, and the family source external and professional help to care for them as the illness progresses. Dementia is the term used to describe the general decline in mental ability, most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s. It’s a heart-breaking situation to go through yourself; but is sometimes equally painful for the loved ones of the patient, since they must face the person they care about so much struggle and slowly lose parts of themselves. If the family have not sought professional support and are caring for the person with dementia, then it’s not just the physicality of the role that will take a toll on them. It’ll be incredibly difficult to face dementia in a person you’ve known for many years and have shared part of your life with – and this emotional impact needs to be recognised more.
It’s important to realise that illnesses such as dementia don’t just affect 1 person. No man is an island. We all have people around us who care for us and who will be emotionally affected if they see us any less than our normal selves. So, let’s be more open about that, and even more importantly, let’s be open about how the social care sector is here to help. Care workers are here to help with the physical aspects of caring for someone – helping them dress, wash and move around – but there’s also a care for the mental, emotional and psychological health of the person and their family. If someone with dementia has a care worker around to provide companionship, then it can give their family a much-needed breather from the constant emotional strain of the illness. This will allow them to be less worn out and emotionally drained when interacting with the service user, which overall improves their quality of life.
Caring for someone is stressful, whether you are sharing the duties with a professional carer or not and looking after the extended community of a person in care should not be lost throughout the process. Someone dealing with Alzheimer’s, a different variation of dementia or any other illness needs to be able to lean on their family, but if their loved ones are struggling with their mental health due to the strain of care – everyone suffers. Luckily, professional support workers and social workers are here to support everyone through the process. There are countless services like advice forums, charity-led support groups, short-term breaks and more which can help make the process easier to manage for both the service user and their family. While social work and care professionals won’t ease all the emotional impact that an illness can have on loved ones; they can help put a healthier platform in place that means families don’t have such a hard time when caring for their relative.
If you are caring for someone with dementia or are working with a service user who has a relative with dementia then make sure to look through the resources available on One Stop Social. As part of our commitment to our social work community, we upload helpful tools regularly which provide alternative perspectives, advice and recommendations on how to manage dementia.