by Dr Radha Modgil
One of the most difficult things that we face in life is when we see those we care about or are caring for struggling with their physical health, their mental health and emotional wellbeing, and with life itself.
We can feel overwhelmed, unequipped and often at a loss to know what to do to help support them to feel better and find solutions to some of the problems they face. And often these feelings can have an impact on our own health and wellbeing in the long run.
Meaningful relationships are a major protective factor for our wellbeing, especially for our mental health, and it is often the people around us, whether friends, family or our local community, who lift us up in times of need and whose kindness, time and understanding make all the difference.
Support for people
If you find yourself worrying about someone you care about but don’t know what to do to support them, here are some simple tips:
- Get specific. If you feel overwhelmed or like you don’t know how to support someone then ask. And ask them for specifics. Writing a list of practical things you might help them with, or strategies to support how they feel at certain moments, can help. Letting them know exactly when and how you are available can also be useful.
- Don’t forget the basics. Often we think we need to do something big to be of help, whereas actually it is the basic things like time, listening and trying to understand or give company that can make a big difference and help that person feel heard, seen and valued.
- Arm yourself with knowledge and facts. If someone is living with a certain condition then making sure we know more about that and how it can affect them can be useful in how we approach different situations. It can make sure we are offering appropriate support.
- Don’t forget about yourself. Looking after someone can be very tough and can take a toll on your mental and physical wellbeing. Although challenging to do, try and identify moments when you can do something for yourself. Try to think about simple things that bring you joy. Check in with how you are feeling every single day and notice when it’s getting too much. Identify any local services or people who may be able to support you.
- Explore social prescribing. Social prescribing is all about connecting people to activities and support in their local community for their wellbeing. You might be able to help the person you’re worried about find support, based on their situation and what matters to them. If you are a carer, you may also find new practical ideas, connection, and emotional support for yourself through social prescribing.
Support for carers
If you are supporting someone, you may not see yourself as a carer, but it’s important to know about the support that’s available.
A carer is someone who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help – often because of an illness, frailty, a disability, a long-term condition, a mental health problem or an addiction. The care they give is usually unpaid.
As a GP, I know that carers are often forgotten about, have less time to seek help for their own health needs and to look after themselves, and don’t always see themselves as a priority. They can become isolated and feel alone, as well as having to deal with sometimes very challenging emotions.
As well as following the tips above, here are a few places where you may be able to find support:
Carers Trust: Homepage - Carers Trust
Carers UK: Help and advice | Carers UK
Citizen’s Advice: Carers: help and support - Citizens Advice
Age UK: Support for carers | Age UK
Music for Dementia: Music for Dementia
Dementia Carers Count: Homepage | Dementia Carers Count
Find out how social prescribing can support you: Social prescribing and me | NASP (socialprescribingacademy.org.uk)
Find out how you can support a carer: Dementia Carers Count — Music For Dementia