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Being the carer in a relationship

Many people become carers because they want to help a relative, friend or someone close to them, or perhaps there is no one else to do this so they have little choice. For many it can be a very rewarding experience, but it generally also causes emotional and physical strain at some point.

Being a Parkinson's carer (also known as a caregiver) can bring with it financial worries too, particularly if it means you have to give up or reduce working hours. For those who become carers later in life, their new role can be physically and mentally challenging.

It is therefore not surprising that caring for a person you love can impact significantly on your relationship with them, and also on your relationships with other people. Adjusting to the shifts in relationships, and maybe role reversal too, can be difficult but there is a lot you can do to make this easier.

Adapting to changing roles

First and foremost try to stay positive. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s can produce similar feelings in both the person diagnosed and those close to them. A positive frame of mind can really make a difference to living well with Parkinson’s though. Inevitably there will be times where one or both of you feel down, but you are there to support each other so try to discuss your feelings and share the load.

Try to learn more about Parkinson’s too. This will help you feel more in control and more equal in managing the challenges you face.

You may feel that your role has changed and that you are now seen as a carer rather than a partner or family member. If this worries or upsets you then try to discuss it with the person you care for or other close friends and family. Simply sharing your feelings rather than bottling them up will probably make you feel better and will reduce the chance of tensions in your relationship.

It is essential that you look after your own health and recognise your own needs, for example some ‘me’ time, a chance to relax, getting adequate sleep and exercise, eating well etc. Look out for signs of emotional stress, such as anxiety, depression, discontent and fatigue. All of these are natural signs of the additional responsibilities and stress you may feel as a carer but ignoring them can lead to negative feelings and a sense of resentment of your caring role. The important thing is to recognise emotional stress and find ways to alleviate it, or ask for any extra support you need. A healthy carer will be a better carer so it is important to find solutions if you aren’t coping.

Some carers naturally feel that their needs are seen as secondary to those of the person they look after which can create feelings of resentment. At doctor appointments it is likely that the conversation will focus only on the person with Parkinson’s but it is good to make the doctor aware of how you are coping too so don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.

For detailed information on caring for someone with Parkinson’s and practical information to help see Caring and Parkinson’s.

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