Are you one of the 2.65 million Australian voluntary carers looking after a loved one at home?
Caring for a family member or close friend who is aging or ill is one of the most important roles you can play in that relationship — and one of the most complicated. A caregiving role can happen suddenly with a disease diagnosis such as Cancer or Dementia, or perhaps start gradually by way of driving your loved one to get groceries or to see a doctor.
While it is often a rewarding experience, in some cases it can feel isolating, overwhelming, exhausting and challenging. Carer burnout and a feeling of inadequacy are common side-effect for many carers. Trying to handle the responsibilities of caregiving can, in some situations, lead to burnout and stress-related health problems. But the good news is you don’t need to go it alone.
A vital member of the Anglican Care team, Jacqui Culver, a Nurse Practitioner specialising in ageing, dementia and palliative care, is a passionate advocate about the need to provide support to carers.
“The role of a carer can entail many things from just being present, maybe getting a little bit of shopping or doing a little bit of housework, right up to providing high levels of support day and night. In some cases, the carer will give support to their loved one at home until end-of-life. It’s really important that we recognise that there’s no training for carers and not everybody is geared to do the full gamut of caring”.
Jacqui suggests that those giving care should have open discussions with their loved at the very early stages of giving care.
“Carers need to be mindful that there may be some things their loved one is not comfortable with them doing, and would prefer those tasks be done by a Care Worker or Nurse – for example showering or wound management.”
Family caregivers find it easy to forget about their own needs, which is why caregivers often experience fatigue, stress and in some cases feelings of isolation, depression and other health problems. Sometimes caregivers feel guilty about taking time to have fun. Where possible, try and give yourself a break. But how you say?
Here are our top 5 tips for Caregivers
- Access services early – learn as much as you can about what is available to your loved one by going to the website www.myagedcare.gov.au and begin your application before the situation becomes unmanageable. Your loved one may be eligible for respite, a Home Care Package or Commonwealth Home Support. If not, you can pay for man of these professional services privately.
- Make use of specific support groups such as Dementia Australia or the new Carer Gateway.
- Look after your own physical and emotional health and see your GP regularly. You’ll need to keep up your energy and stay well to care for others.
- Don’t neglect your own exercise, healthy eating and sleep, and take time for activities you enjoy.
Many people receiving care feel better if they know their carers are taking time for rest and enjoyment. It may not be possible to take away all the stress but taking some steps to look after yourself will help.
Why not learn more about the new Carer Gateway today at www.carergateway.gov.au.
It was introduced in June 2020 and is the Federal Government’s new one stop shop for carers. It provides carers with in-person, phone and online services to support unpaid carers. The service is free to access and includes counselling services, respite care support, connecting you to other carers, on-line courses and financial support options.