It’s National Carer’s Week this week and we’re turning the spotlight on those who care for a loved one with migraine.
We know that between 12-15% of Irish people experience migraine – this means that roughly half a million people are dealing with migraine in Ireland. All age groups suffer, including children.
And it’s not just the person with migraine who’s affected by this debilitating condition. For many migraineurs (people with migraines), family and friends can play an important role in helping to cope with a condition that is often misunderstood by others.
4 steps to help someone with migraine pain
1. Understand the condition
The first step in helping someone with migraine is to understand the nature of the condition. It can be distressing to see a person you care for who is suffering and not understand what they are experiencing. Developing a better understanding of migraine helps you more effectively support and care for your loved one.
Migraine: Not Just Another Headache
You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating. A migraine is “not just a headache.” Migraine is a complex neurological condition.
The 2017 analysis of the World Health Organization Global Burden of Disease study reported migraine to be the second-highest leading cause of years lived with disability (Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017).
Migraine typically features a one-sided throbbing headache, made worse by movement or physical activity. Other symptoms include nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light, sound and smell, etc. An attack can last hours or even days with total freedom between attacks. Migraine has been likened to a power cut, as the whole body seems to shut down until the attack is over. The headache is of course just one of the symptoms, albeit the most well-known.
Learn more about the different types of migraine here.
2. Seek expert medical help
If your friend or family member hasn’t yet sought medical attention for migraine, or if a past visit to the doctor didn’t result in migraine relief, you can encourage them to seek a referral to a headache specialist (support them by going along to medical appointments and taking notes). There is also a new category of prescription drugs, called CGRPs (Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide). Recent research has established that CGRP plays a key role in migraine pathophysiology (the study of the disordered physiological processes that cause, result from, or are otherwise associated with a disease or injury).
If you would like to learn more about the new anti CGRP medications, or simply want to keep up to date with the information on their release, efficacy, etc., the CGRP Forum sends out a newsletter with the latest updates, releases, and information on the newest medications for migraine. You can sign up for the newsletter by clicking the following link https://www.cgrpforum.org/.
You can also find information on the medications which are currently in the pipeline by visiting our website: http://migraine.ie/2020/04/cgrp-update-latest-on-the-availability-of-the-anti-cgrp-medications-in-ireland.
3. Keep a migraine diary
Migraine diaries are a useful way to keep track of migraine attacks and try to identify what may trigger them.
Click here to download your copy of the Migraine Ireland diary.
If you prefer to keep a digital diary, you can now avail of a FREE premium subscription to the N1-Headache app from Curelator. This offer runs until July 31, 2020.
4. Provide practical and emotional support
Migraine is an isolating and lonely experience. Your support can help alleviate some of the distress of the sufferer. Even if it’s something as simple as fetching an ice pack, drawing the curtains, and making sure the person has their medication, listening, offering comfort and practical support is a way to show you acknowledge and understand the debilitating nature of a migraine attack.
Caring for the Carer
Caring for someone with a chronic pain condition, like migraine, may leave you vulnerable to stress too. A 2015 study found that chronic migraine (CM) not only causes physical suffering for the patient but also adversely impacts the entire family. The Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) Study found that CM frequently leads to canceled family plans and strained relationships.
Don’t neglect to take care of your own physical and mental health too and reach out to others who can support you. According to the Care Alliance of Ireland, “self-care includes positive steps which individuals can take to improve their mental health, and can take the form of time to themselves, relaxation techniques, healthy eating, and myriad other activities which have a positive impact on wellbeing and mental health.” (Check out our Wellness Hub on YouTube for videos on mental health and physical wellbeing).
Remember you are just as important as the person you care for!
About National Carers Week
The theme of this year’s National Carer’s Week is #MakingCaringVisible. This is a theme that speaks to the invisibility and isolation that family carers often feel – but which is currently exacerbated by Covid-19.
More Information about events and support during can be found at https://www.facebook.com/nationalcarersweek/