Carers must think look after themselves as well
Although it can be difficult, you need to consider your own needs as well as those of the person you are caring for. If your health begins to suffer, caring will become more difficult.
These general guidelines and tips about how to take better care of yourself have worked for other carers. The following information is sourced from the fact sheet Taking care of yourself by Carers Australia.
Try to continue with activities that you enjoy. Even though the many responsibilities of caring can make it difficult to manage, it's important that you follow your own interests outside your caring role.
Some carers say that they feel guilty when they leave the house or enjoy an activity without the person they are caring for. If you are finding it difficult to get out and about, talk to a trusted person about how you are feeling.
It’s easy to become isolated when you're a carer. You might be too busy to keep up with friends and family and people may also visit less often.
Loneliness is a common side effects of being a carer. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands what you're going through can be a great relief. Share your experiences with someone you trust – family, friends, neighbours, other carers or co-workers.
It often helps to talk to people in the same situation. When ideas, feelings, concerns, information and problems are shared, the experience of caring can seem less isolating. It's important that you don't feel alone – especially for those people who don't have family members to give help and support.
Try to make sure that you are:
- Making time for regular exercise - this will make you feel more energetic and provide a break from your daily activities.
- Having healthy, regular meals - it's not always easy to do, but is important for your long-term health.
- Getting enough rest and sleep - tiredness and exhaustion often add to the stress of caring.
- Looking after your back - if you need to lift or transfer the person you are caring for, get professional advice on the safest way to lift and any available aids to assist.
- Talking to your family doctor about your caring role and the demands it makes on you.
Getting in the habit of making time for yourself as a regular part of your day is important. Don't feel guilty about this time – it's for you. Planning ahead and pacing yourself will also help. If possible, plan activities such as housework for times when you're feeling you have the energy. Don't rush, and remember to value yourself and all that you do.
You cannot care constantly without a break. Even though it's often not easy to do, ask for help. Ask family and friends and respite care services to help you have regular and frequent breaks. The sort of break you take will depend on what suits you and the person you are caring for, as well as the services available in your area.
Breaks can be taken in your house or away from it. They might be for a few hours, a day, overnight or longer. It might mean that you go to an exercise class, attend a wedding, catch up with friends or family, or go on holidays. It can be a regular weekly event or something that happens only once a year.
Contact your local Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 059 059 to discuss what options are available for you and the person you are caring for. You can also contact Carers Australia on 1800 242 636 or the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
Although it can be easier said than done, you need time to yourself every day. It doesn't need to be long – 15 minutes can do wonders. Try to take time to just sit and relax or listen to music that suits you.
- Do I have someone I trust to talk to about how I'm feeling?
- Am I trying to get some regular exercise?
- Am I trying to get enough rest and sleep?
- Am I trying to eat regular meals?
- Do I get enough breaks from caring?
- Have I got some regular times for relaxation?
Avoid isolation - foster friendships, by phone if personal contact is unreliable due to uncertainty of caring role. Keep fit (walk, swim) and stress management is also important. Have a conference with relatives - agree on division of care, sharing of responsibilities - be specific on commitments. Take a break.
Most carers will tell you that they have times when they are unable to cope. If you're feeling this way, talk to someone about it - your family, friends, doctor, or contact your Commonwealth Carer Resource Centre on 1800 242 636.
Carers Australia provides carers with information, advice and referrals to services that can assist in their role. Information is available on a range of topics, including home help, carer’s support groups, financial entitlements, support services, respite and general assistance.
Centrelink, on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Human Services, delivers payments and services for retirees, job seekers, families, carers, parents, people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and provides services at times of major change. Call on 132 717 or go to the Centrelink website for more information. Information is also available in a number of different languages.
Technical Aid to the Disabled is a not for profit organisation that specialises in creating or modifying equipment for people with a disability of all ages, older people, and supporting their carers. They are represented in all states and territories except for Northern Territory. They can be contacted Australia-wide on 1300 663 243.
Managed by Carers Australia, the Young Carers initiative provides information and support to people up to 25 years of age who care in families where someone has an illness, a disability, a mental health issue or who has an alcohol or other drug problem.
The National Continence Helpline is staffed by continence nurse specialists who offer free and confidential information, advice and support. They also provide a wide range of continence-related resources and referrals to local services.