If you are a carer providing essential, informal assistance to a family member or friend who is aged or has a long term health condition or disability, did you know that you are one of more than 2.7 million carers in Australia (according to Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012)? Without wonderful, selfless people like yourself, our communities would be feeling a lot more pain.
You may not think of yourself as a hero, but sometimes, as a carer, it’s easy to want to be one, and focus so much on making sure your family member or friend is looked after and gets the help they need, that you may not have given much thought to how your caring role will impact on your own life and how you will manage. We understand that you might be reluctant to accept support yourself, but hopefully we can help you start to think otherwise.
Carer support you might like to consider
– Carer Support Groups
Share tips and learnings with other carers. You can ask advice on anything. For example, what lifting equipment is easiest to use and which medical practices provide home visits?
Some carer support groups are arranged for specific conditions, such as dementia, and have guest speakers who can provide information on the latest research and treatments. They also provide an opportunity to take a break and socialise with others. And the people who attend should genuinely understand if you’re late sometimes because of an issue at home.
– Respite care
Respite care is designed to allow you to have a break. There are many different types of respite care to meet your needs. For example, Doris will celebrate her 70th birthday this year. She has spent most of her adult life caring for her daughter, Rita, who has Down Syndrome. Doris needs to have an operation next month and has arranged residential respite to provide accommodation and care for Rita for a few weeks in a residential care facility while Doris is in hospital.
If you just need a few hours to go to appointments or shopping, in-home respite care can provide a support worker to provide care in your home or you could arrange for your family member/friend to attend a day centre where they can enjoy a range of leisure activities and a social lunch. For example, Susan sleeps on a mattress on the floor beside her son Nathan’s bed. Nathan has a condition that can cause him to unexpectedly stop breathing at any time. Every month, Susan arranges for Nathan to stay in an overnight respite house for two days so she can get a good night’s sleep in her own bed.
– Home modifications and equipment
Having the right equipment and environment makes any job easier and safer. There are many ways your home can be modified. The most common home modifications are the installation of ramps and modifications to the bathroom to enable easy access to the shower and toilets. Occupational therapists can provide advice on home modifications and aides that you may want to consider. Respite care can be useful if you are having home modifications completed as it provides an alternative environment so your family member/friend is not exposed to noise, building equipment and disrupted routines, which can be distressing and pose safety concerns.
– Emergency respite plan
Even if you aren’t actively using any respite care services at the moment, having an emergency respite plan is a form of insurance in case of the unexpected. Regardless of how things are going at the moment, there are many things that can prevent you from being available to be a carer – getting sick, getting injured or something as everyday as a flat tyre.
The process of preparing an emergency respite plan will help you think through who you could call if you needed help at short notice. Emergency respite plans should cover different scenarios. Consider whether a neighbour or friend could help out in an emergency if you need help for a few hours? Where can your family member/friend go to live for a few days if you are in hospital? Once you have identified people or services who could help, you can check they are willing to assist and provide them with information about care needs.
– Financial assistance
Some carers are unable to work or have additional expenses as a result of their caring role. There are many Government programs that can provide you with financial assistance.
The most flexible form of funding is Consumer Directed Respite Care (CDRC). This program provides you with funding so you can decide what to purchase to get the best outcomes for yourself. For example, you may want to employ someone to help you around the home with gardening or cleaning. Or maybe you want to save up funds to purchase in-home respite care for a Saturday night when you’re going to a wedding. You can also select the respite service and support worker that you feel will get along well with your family member or friend.
6 good reasons to use carer supports
1. If you don’t look after your own physical health and safety, sickness or injury may prevent you from continuing as a carer.
2. If you don’t have enough support, you may become stressed and overwhelmed, which can impact on your health, cause tension between yourself and your family member/friend and lead to burnout. Stress can also impact on the quality of care you can provide, as well as quality of life for you and your family member/friend.
3. Getting tips and learning from others in a similar situation can save you time and effort.
4. Receiving financial support can help you to maintain your standard of living.
5. You might benefit from the peace of mind that comes from knowing how to access more support if anything unexpected happens.
6. If you ever need unplanned respite care, it will cause less stress for your family member/friend because they are familiar with the arrangements and not feel like the unplanned respite care is a cause for worry.
Want more information?
The Australian Government’s Carer Gateway has information for carers and can help with advice. You can also find local support and services to meet your needs.