How to take care of yourself as a carer
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How to take care of yourself as a carer

David has been taking care of his wife Rita, who has dementia, for the last 4 years while running the family’s grocery store. In between managing his family’s business, he finds the time to be home most afternoons to be with her.

Linda’s father moved in with her family two weeks ago, after suffering a massive stroke. In between work and looking after the kids, Linda and her husband take turns to care for him 24/7.

Derek and Jessica are raising a beautiful family of five. They recently discovered their oldest child, Jayson, has special needs. They are committed to giving him the best life possible, but need support.

Their names have been changed, but these are just people are just some of the wonderful unpaid carers we partner with-every day.

About 1 in 8 people living in Australia currently provides care for a family member or friend. Although the countless tasks they do often go unrecognized, their replacement value has been calculated at $60.3 billion in a year, which amounts to $1 billion per week 1. And that doesn’t even measure the intangible benefits they bring to our community; things you can’t put a price-tag on like love, support and companionship.

Being a carer isn’t easy. Often, it comes with pressures such as exhaustion, the frustrations of navigating government funding, balancing caring with work and strained family relationships.

It doesn’t help that some carers can feel guilty if they spend time on themselves. Many report feeling alone, unappreciated, anxious, even depressed. In the worst cases, this can lead to burnout: a state of emotional, mental or physical exhaustion.

Caring for others starts with caring for yourself

If you are providing care for someone, it’s important to watch out for signs of burnout. This can include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Feeling increasingly frustrated and resentful
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irritability with small things that wouldn’t normally bother you
  • Feeling negative about life
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Constantly neglecting your own needs.

If you’re struggling to cope, here are 7 things that might help.

Take time for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup! Fill up yours by doing something you enjoy and find relaxing, whether it’s gardening, watching a movie, playing sport or getting a massage. Make sure you schedule itas a regular activity in your week.

Use respite care

If leaving your loved one is difficult, consider using respite care. Thesis when someone else takes over your caring duties, perhaps for a few hours, a day, or a weekend, so you can have a break. We offer respite services at Home Caring – ask us how we can help.

Take care of your health

Eat balanced, healthy meals, get a good amount of sleep, and go easy on the caffeine and alcohol. It’s also important to stay active. Exercise not only keeps your body healthy, but also produces endorphins: those ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain that help reduce pain, improve sleep and reduce stress.

Talk to your loved one’s paid carer

Remember, as home carers we are here to help! If you feel like you’re not coping, speak to your family member’s support worker or case manager. Great care is about what works for you and your family, and we can tailor our services to help you cope better. You can read a bit more about our values on our website.

Try mindfulness

Meditation is a great way to not only be fully present in the moment, but to also decrease your stress levels, increase your focus and give your happiness a boost – especially after a difficult day! Not sure how to start? There are plenty of apps and websites that offer guided meditations for as little as five minutes. Headspace is a good place to start.

Stay social

It can be easy to withdraw from the outside world when caring for someone. Instead, spend time with friends or colleagues, join a hobby club, play a team sport or find out what social groups run in your local community. You can also access carer support groups through Carers Australia.

Accept and seek help when you need it

Next time someone asks, “what can I do to help?” take them up on their offer. Getting help with things like cooking meals or doing chores can remind us we’re not alone.

If things feel too overwhelming, seeing a professional (for example, a counsellor) can help. They can not only provide a listening ear, but help you come up with strategies to reduce your stress. For counsellors or psychologists in your area, talk to your GP or visit the Beyond Blue website.

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