Don’t forget to care for yourself too

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People who care for loved-ones in Bedfordshire are being urged not to neglect their own health this winter.

Local GPs are sending a message to carers that it’s only by looking after their own health that they can continue their vital role caring for partners, relatives and friends who are ill, frail or have a disability.

Winter illness can be hard to avoid but there are some simple steps people can take to look after themselves, which in turn will help to protect those they care for.

> It’s still not too late to guard against flu by getting a flu jab from a pharmacist – and the jab is free for anyone receiving carers allowance.

> At the first sign of illness – even if it’s just a cough, cold or sore throat – carers should visit their local pharmacy for specialist advice on what they can do, including what over-the-counter treatments are available to relieve symptoms.

Alvin Low, BCCG Clinical chair and local GP, said: “Carers are very much the unsung heroes of health care and they play a hugely important role in our community, enabling ill, elderly or frail loved-ones to remain in their own homes and retain a level of independence. But sometimes the job of caring for others can be at the expense of your own health and wellbeing, which can often easily be forgotten when you are used to focusing on someone else’s needs.

“Our message to carers is to not put your own health at the bottom of your priorities list. It’s not selfish to think about your own needs – quite the opposite in fact. Consider what would happen if you were too ill to meet the needs of those you are caring for.

“Carers do an incredible job in Bedfordshire but they need to do what’s necessary to protect themselves and the people they care for against illness and stay well this winter.”

Bedfordshire carer Angela Banister said: “I care for my mum, and felt it was really important for us both to get the flu jab. The last thing mum needs is for me to get sick. If I catch flu it could mean that I can’t look out for her, or worse, she gets flu from me and ends up in hospital or worse.

“I’m lucky that I have a supportive family network, but if I got sick it would have a huge impact on my ability to look after mum.”

There is also information available from the NHS to support carers, including information on carers allowance, benefits, caring for children with complex needs, young carers’ rights and a carers direct helpline. Go to www.nhs.uk and click on the ‘Care and support’ tab for full details.

For more information on staying well this winter visit www.nhs.uk/staywell.