Being a carer |  Support

Ways to support yourself

The ‘sense of coherence model’ can help you build the resilience to support yourself

By Sue Hinds, Head of Services

It’s important to manage your wellbeing as a carer. The challenges of caring can build up and may begin to wear down your resources and wellbeing, so finding ways to support yourself and to build your resilience is really important. 

Resilience can be defined as the way we adapt, manage and negotiate the stresses and adversities in life. By learning new ways of thinking, behaving and interacting with others, ways to cope can be developed even when life is tough. Resilience will incorporate the ability to manage the challenges that arise from caregiving and is invaluable to your wellbeing and caring role.

The sense of coherence model is a psychological model often used in resilience training. It incorporates the ability to use current knowledge, developing new knowledge and its meaningful application to everyday life. It is a combination of 3 elements:

The sense of coherence model

Understanding

Understand the dementia and behaviours and what this might mean for the future.

Managing

You have the ability, skills and support. Use these to take care of the things within your control.

Meaning

Use what you learn in life. Looking after the person you care for is important, but so is looking after yourself.

When the three elements are brought together – when you understand a situation, believe that you have the skills and support you need to manage it and find meaning in what you do – then a sense of coherence will emerge from the chaos.

Research has demonstrated that the use of the model was successful in improving carer resilience, and those who used the model in their caring role experienced improvements in wellbeing, reduced isolation and increased skills

There are a number of practical and psychological factors that may prevent you from taking time out from your caring role and accessing the vital support you may need. Some practical factors may include time, transport, finding replacement care and financial considerations, psychologically there may be a sense of duty and an overwhelming sense of guilt which prevents you from giving yourself permission to seek the support you need and to look after yourself.

A lack of local services or information about these can affect your access to support. Cambridge researchers examined these barriers as well as the facilitators of service uptake. Carers have reported that they feel uninformed and do not know where to access information about services which are relevant to their situation. Online or phone support is quick and easy but there is also a need for more tailored information and services.

Guilt can be a complex barrier to accessing support. It is a feeling which results from doing something wrong, even if in reality you aren’t. Research tells us that guilt can be unhelpful and lead to self-doubt, decreased self-esteem, shame and isolation. A Caregiver Guilt Questionnaire which was developed in Spain has identified that guilt about taking time for self-care was one of the 5 main factors identified by carers looking after someone with dementia.