Although caring for others can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience, it can also take a toll on the carer’s health, employment, finances and relationships.
Having strong personal and social relationships is vital to maintaining a carer’s wellbeing. The good news is that help is available to support both the carer and those being cared for.
Being a carer often involves dealing with uncertainty and problem solving on a daily basis.
Finding out about helpful and effective services ahead of time can increase your confidence and ability to find solutions when you need them.
There is growing recognition of the value and importance of carers. Victorian Government policies emphasise carer’s rights and promote increased support networks.
There are significant costs involved in caring for another person, which can also include a loss of income.
If you have concerns about finances, a financial counsellor may be helpful in developing a sustainable plan.
Health care professionals can help to address the concerns of both older people and carers, including a carer’s wellbeing and ability to manage situations.
They are valuable sources of information about what to do and where to go for help with medical issues that may arise.
As a carer, having a support network is vital, particularly when dealing with challenging behaviours or aggression.
It is not unusual for carers to feel overwhelmed, guilty or resentful because of the demands placed on them. This is often an indication that their responsibilities are taking a toll and they may need a break. Unfortunately though, this is not always recognised until people reach breaking point.
Respite care gives carers the opportunity to take a break from their caring responsibilities. It can be informally given at home by family and friends, or more structured respite services are available. Services that provide meaningful support and activities for the person in care, rather than purely respite care, may be most helpful.
Future decision-making can seem overwhelming when your time and energy are focused on everyday caregiving responsibilities, so it’s important to be prepared and informed about legal and medical options early on. Some common legal documents to assist carers are:
General information on legal and financial matters is available from the following websites.
Even though you’re caring for someone else, it’s important to take care of yourself as well. The caring relationship involves two people with equal needs.
Use every resource available to look after yourself, particularly as your time becomes more valuable. Keep the following tips in mind.
Don’t give up on getting help. It’s important to realise you’re not alone. Whether it’s family or friends, trained professionals and organisations, or local and national support services, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Even the most resilient carers can sometimes feel that it’s hard to cope. Working with a counsellor may be helpful in dealing with these feelings, developing coping strategies, or working through other challenges such as family conflict and isolation.
For some, these feelings and experiences can lead to problems with depression or anxiety. Common symptoms include constant worrying about the future, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, low energy, and feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are having a negative effect on your physical or mental health, talk to your General Practitioner (GP) about your concerns. GPs can also refer you to a psychologist for counselling through a Mental Health Plan, which is funded by Medicare.
Some carers find that the constant stress of caring leads to a loss of patience, which can result in the physical or emotional mistreatment of older people.
If this starts happening for you, seek help straight away. There are a range of confidential and non-judgemental services available to support carers and those being cared for in these situations.
The pressures of caregiving can often strain family relationships. It often falls on one family member to take primary responsibility for caring, while others may offer support from the sidelines.
When negotiating family conversations about caregiving and responsibilities, keep the following things in mind.
Relationships Australia Victoria provides counselling and mediation services for individuals, couples and families. Our services can assist in facilitating conversations between older adults, carers and other family members to explore options and make decisions regarding family arrangements and healthcare services. For more on our senior relationship services, click here.
Download a PDF copy of this tipsheet.