Today is the beginning of National Carers Week - seven days out of the 365 that many carers commit to looking after family, friends and neighbours. Seven days to stop and reflect on what that really means for people and communities. Endeavour Foundation and Carers Queensland have partnered to bring you information on how carers can access care for themselves.
According to Carers Queensland’s recently released Quality of Life report, half of unpaid family carers work an incredible 120 or more hours a week providing care for their loved one. Australia benefits from their extraordinary physical, social and emotional sacrifices - saving the nation $1.1 billion per week in care costs. But what about the personal cost?
If you feel as though you are a carer first and a person in your own right second, take heart in the potential for change within disability support. The good news is that under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the opportunities for additional assistance for people with a disability to increase their independence and pursue their own ambitions should give carers greater freedom.
Indeed, the agency responsible for the NDIS has said that they will take account of what it is reasonable to expect families and carers to provide, and will step up to better support you in your caring role.
In the meantime, together with Carers Queensland we've developed some guidance to help carers stay healthy. Because not only do you deserve to be looked after, but by looking after ‘you’, you’re better equipped to look after others.
Try not to dismiss the concept of ‘me’ time in your hectic life. It is so important that you find opportunities to re-charge your batteries. This is different for everyone, but might be as simple as playing your favourite music, having a peaceful cup of tea in the garden or embarking on a creative project.
Whatever your personal preferences, it’s crucial that you invest in yourself.
Self-care is the foundation for providing the best possible care for others.
Managing stress is critical to personal wellbeing. Some people find relaxation CDs a good place to start – offering time out and clear guidance on how to relax mind and body. Free CDs are available through the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 200 422 or Carer Advisory Service on 1800 242 636.
Planning, however challenging that might be in your particular situation, can also help minimise stress. It might be as simple as writing down appointments, medication times, dosages and meal breaks. Remember, timetabling your day is intended to relieve pressure – if it’s achieving the opposite, it’s maybe not for you.
The harsh reality is that relationships can change dramatically as your time becomes limited and your responsibilities increase. Where friends and relatives struggle to understand, it’s so important to communicate with them – suffering in silence is not a solution.
Try to find new ways to socialise that fit around your caring role – maybe change nights out for a BBQ in your own garden. Perhaps think about set ‘catch up’ times each week and month and start a ‘friendship chain’ for when things get tough, so by reaching out to just one person you’ll find a whole group rallying to your aid.
Also, given that technology is constantly delivering new ways of communicating, it might help to get into texting, emailing or join an online support group or blog. The nature of the internet means that our networks no longer need be our neighbours (although that’s great too)! For the face-to-face experience, Carers Queensland support groups are held state-wide and are a great way to meet others who will understand your situation.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help – respite exists for a very good reason.
We all need a break, and taking that time doesn’t mean you care or give less, it just makes you human.
Sometimes talking things out with someone who actively listens and understands really helps. Being able to express yourself, confidentially, without feeling judged and with someone independent from your friends and family can feel like a huge weight is lifted from you. Even when you can’t change your circumstances, you can find better ways of coping with them, or just feeling heard is helpful.
Endeavour Foundation’s social work team provide confidential counselling for individuals and families to deal with stress management, coping strategies and grief and loss. For a confidential conversation, call us on 07 3896 6042.
National Carers Week 2016 is from 16 – 22 October and is about recognising and celebrating the outstanding contribution Australia’s 2.8 million unpaid carers make to our nation.
This year’s theme is ‘Carers Count’. Show carers how much they count and thank them for their extraordinary contribution to Australia by visiting: http://www.carersweek.com.au/make-a-pledge/
Produced in partnership with Carers Queensland.