We may be caring whilst experiencing menopause or peri-menopause ourselves. Or caring for someone going through menopause. Some of us may be ticking both boxes!
Using our cuppas as a safe space to chat about all sorts of things, we opened up a conversation on caring and menopause. And here, we’ve collected lots of lived experience and tips, capturing what really matters to carers.
Some of the topics we'll explore:
How does menopause feel?
Carers shared the following symptoms:
1. Hot flushes
2. A change of periods
3. Disturbed sleep
5. Aches and pains (particularly shoulder and neck)
6. Brain fog
7. Weight gain
Why is it important for carers to know the signs of menopause?
The list of symptoms closely mirrors what we may experience through ‘carer stress’ or ‘carer burnout’. This means we may find ourselves or even our GPs ignoring and dismissing the symptoms as just a consequence of our caring role.
Recognising menopause when it’s happening is important. Firstly, there are treatments that could make us feel better - we don’t have to keep feeling this way! And secondly, it allows us to be more understanding of ourselves if we are struggling with our caring role.
In terms of the person we are caring for, it’s equally true that menopause symptoms could be assumed to be connected to their disability or diagnosis. However if it is menopause, we may be able to help relieve their symptoms with the right support or medication for them.
What treatments are available for menopause?
The best person to speak with would be your GP or to attend a Menopause clinic. We can find our own local clinic through the British Menopause Society.
There’s a growing number of treatments available. Including Hormone Replacement Therapy, which can be given in a number of ways, including tablets, skin patches, gel or implants.
“There are alternative types, so if one does not work for you, don’t give up” - Advice from unpaid carer
It was noted that those of us with high blood pressure, may not be suited to Hormone Replacement Therapy. Your doctor will be able to advise.
Some carers recommended alternative and complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and essential oils
“I felt better after my acupuncture. Although I'm not sure if the acupuncture made the difference, or if it was just having an hour to myself whilst someone did something for me!” - Unpaid carer
Hormone Replacement Therapy and dementia
Unpaid carers in the cuppa mentioned that there was some research emerging around how the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy is starting to be linked to a reduction in dementia in later life. The Alzheimer’s Society has more information on this.
Things we can do at home to relieve menopause symptoms
Experiencing menopause can be tough mentally and physically. And when we're looking after someone else, there is often the added complication of not being able to rest or find the time or energy to care for ourselves properly.
But there are simple things we can do at home, one step at a time, to help relieve some of the menopause symptoms:
1. Regular exercise or yoga can help us manage hot flushes and mood swings. Yoga with Adriene is the most popular yoga YouTuber, and the best part is we can follow along from the comfort of our homes.
2. When it's hot (especially during the summer months) keep a fan or ice pack handy to cool down during hot flushes.
3. Wear loose, breathable clothing to avoid discomfort and night sweats.
4. Take a relaxing bath with Epsom salt to ease muscle aches and relax the mind. It can also help to sooth our skin, if we're experiencing dry or itchy skin.
5. Practice deep breathing or meditation to reduce stress and anxiety. Try out these simple breathing exercises as a starting point.
6. Stay hydrated by keeping a jug of water by our bedside table.
7. Avoid triggers like caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods that can worsen symptoms
8. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to manage emotional changes and cope with the transition. This is a very natural process our body is going through so it's always helpful to get tips from those who have experienced it before.
The help doesn't stop there
If we have symptoms, see our GP or visit a local menopause clinic. Do it - book that appointment today.
Explain to those around us, to ensure they understand and know how they can help
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also tells us what support we can expect (and what we can wave around if the support is lacking).
It could also be useful to have the Balance - menopause support App which provides guidance about what is right for our bodies during the perimenopause and menopause. We have the option to download on our android or iPhone.
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