Caring for the carer

“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers.  Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”

 – Rosalyn Carter

As a community, caring for the carers is something we should all do. Showing appreciation and valuing those of us who are caring for others is what we want to focus on this week. If you are a carer out there in our community, we want you to know that we see you, we value you and we care about you.

Carers are often so protective of the person they are caring for that they don’t disclose their needs, or their struggles or their vulnerabilities. As a disability support service we can be guilty of overlooking the needs of the carer as we focus solely on the needs of the participant.  Research shows that frequently a carer’s levels of anxiety, depression and distress is higher than the person they are caring for.

Caregiver burnout is a condition that occurs when a carer becomes overwhelmed from the stress and burden of caring for a loved one. Physical, emotional and mental exhaustion are usual, and the carer may feel increasingly isolated, unappreciated and unsupported. Carers benefit from support from their families, their community and organisations in their community, and that way the whole community benefits. 

Carers can take small steps to maintain their wellbeing so that they can continue to live well whilst caring.

Here are some things to consider, bearing in mind that each person’s needs are different and no two people need the same thing to care for themselves:

  • Take some time out. No matter how busy your day, take a few moments to take a breather and do something that will help to lower your stress levels. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself – it’s necessary for good health.
  • Use the NDIS plan and ask for help. Caring requires a superhuman effort across many domains so accept help where you can. Use the NDIS plan of the person you are caring for to share the tasks associated with caring and be specific about what they (and you) need.
  • Stay organised. Make a daily list of tasks and activities that need to be done, as this will help you stay on top of them all. Consider if you can delegate any of them – people are often happy to help once they know what needs to be done. Work with a support coordinator or an LAC to arrange and organise the person you care for’s supports.
  • Find out what government-funded help is available. Know what entitlements you are eligible for. There might be Centrelink services or community supports available that you can access.
  • See if your workplace offers family leave allowances. Take advantage of any time they can offer you.
  • Stay connected and communicate. Don’t lose touch with friends and other family members because caring is taking all your time – you’ll only end up feeling increasingly isolated. Communication can become difficult as isolation and frustration builds, but learning how to effectively communicate and express needs and feelings is helpful. Reach out to services like Able2 to find out what they are doing to support and connect carers.
  • Spend some time in nature. Maintaining a connection with the natural world can help lower stress levels and improve mood and sense of wellbeing. And of course, physical activity! Give yourself permission to take time off and move.
  • Keep up your hobbies and activities. Doing things you enjoy is important to help maintain your happiness levels – and allows you to focus on something other than your caregiving role.

Carers are invaluable. At Able2 we appreciate and value our carers. Please reach out to us if, as a carer, you are struggling and let’s see what we can do together to support you.