Not-for-profit quality care for over 25 years

Dementia and Mental Health- caring for the carer

With Dementia Action Week taking place from 16th – 22nd May, immediately following Mental Health Awareness Week, Greensleeves Care consulted its Admiral Nurse, Steve Mason, on the often-overlooked mental health difficulties that can occur in people who care for a loved one with dementia.

According to a 2018 Alzheimer’s Society survey, nine in ten carers for people who have dementia experience feelings of stress or anxiety several times a week – and a further 80% find it difficult to talk about the emotional impact of caring.

In Steve’s experience, many family carers (family members or friends who carry out informal care) receive minimal or no extra support. As a loved one’s dementia progresses, their abilities will continue to decline, and care becomes ever more complex to the extent that it can totally consume the family carer’s time and life.

Steve said:

“No one person can continue to care both day and night without an effect on their own health, yet many people put pressure on themselves to do so, which leads to feelings of failure when inevitably this lifestyle is no longer sustainable.”

This gradual inability to cope will often lead to consideration of placing the person living with dementia into residential care. While this is often the right choice for everybody involved, it can still bring about further mental health difficulties for the carer, particularly feelings of guilt.

Steve continued:

“Although for many family carers, moving their loved one into a care home brings a sense of relief that their care needs can be fully met and they are in a safe setting, it is not uncommon to feel guilty about having made this decision.”

“Although these feelings of guilt may seem overwhelming, try and be kind to yourself by reminding yourself how you have managed to provide care up to this point.”

When a loved one moves into a care home, at Greensleeves Care this process is as collaborative as possible. Family members are encouraged to help staff at the care home get to know their loved one, especially if they are living with dementia, and to be as involved as possible with their care plan. This way, family members are still empowered to advocate on behalf of their loved ones, but it is less impactful on their own mental and physical health.

Steve also pointed out that “After your loved one moves into a care home, you will have more time to dedicate to your own mental health, which in turn will enable you to be more present when you visit your loved one in their new care home. This can foster more meaningful relationships going forward.”

There are also more options to remain a key part of your loved one’s day-to-day life, for example considering a volunteering role at the care home, or regularly joining in with activities.

Greensleeves Care employs an Admiral Nurse, Steve Mason, who specialises in advising and supporting families affected by dementia as well as residents and staff living in the organisation’s residential and nursing homes and is always happy to assist. If you would like to get in touch with Steve, please feel free to contact [email protected]

Greensleeves Care also has a free online Advice Centre, with dedicated resources for people who care for loved ones: https://www.greensleeves.org.uk/knowledge-centre/categories/care-at-home/

Other sources of support can be found as follows:

Dementia UK’s free Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or by email at

[email protected]

Dementia UK dementiauk.org 

Carers Trust carers.org

Carers UK carersuk.org

Mind mental Health Charity mind.org.uk

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