It’s no secret that providing home care for a loved one is no mean feat. And when you provide 24/7 in home care for a relative with a physical or mental disability (or both), the job can be even more challenging and demanding.
The sad truth is that the ‘silent army’ of volunteers that rise to the challenge of caring for their loved ones seldom get much support themselves. As you can imagine, it’s a thankless role, yet it’s one they willingly do out of love and respect for those closest to them in their lives.
Many children feel they want to “return the favour” of when their parents cared for them as young kids by looking after their mothers and fathers in their time of need. They want their parents to live comfortably at home in familiar surroundings rather than in a care home.
Why You Need to Avoid Carer’s Burnout
According to Carers Australia, there are 2.65 million carers in the country. Around 32% of those people are “primary carers” – family members that provide informal care to their parents or other relatives.
What’s more, over half of all primary carers provide a minimum of 20 hours of care for their loved ones each week, with a third providing 40 hours or more of unpaid care every week. Another statistic is how a third of all primary carers also have a disability.
While being a primary carer is a voluntary act you choose to do, it’s vital that you avoid having carer’s burnout. In a nutshell, a carer’s burnout is where you do so much and for so often that your body physically (and emotionally) can no longer cope.
The last thing you want to do is end up in a position where you cannot cope, and your level of care becomes detrimental to the health of the loved one receiving your care. Whether you provide dementia care, disability care, or aged care, you need to care for yourself too.
8 Ways to Look After Yourself as a Carer
As a carer for a loved one, and whether you want to admit it or not, your health, well-being, and happiness are just as important as those of the person who receives your care.
Most people who provide care for relatives, such as parents, typically don’t have any formal training that professional carers receive. As such, you may not know the signs of when you need help or when you might feel your health and wellbeing is going downhill.
With all that in mind, the following eight points are crucial ones to bear in mind as someone that provides regular care for a loved one each week:
1. Know When You’re Overdoing Things
Arguably the most critical point to consider is knowing when you’re overdoing things. As mentioned earlier, carer’s burnout can and does happen to many individuals providing regular care and support for their loved ones.
On first reflection, you might think that providing at home care or even live in care for elderly parents isn’t a “big deal” or that other people have more severe care needs than your loved one.
However, you could end up overdoing things even if you feel the level of care you provide isn’t that of what someone receiving palliative care or 24 hour care might be. That’s because you’re probably not taking into account the following:
- Your physical and mental health limits;
- Other responsibilities in life, such as those to your own family;
- Career responsibilities.
How do you know when you might be overdoing it? There are specific symptoms that you might be experiencing. Examples include anxiety, exhaustion, mood swings, lack of motivation, and, of course, depression.
2. Make Sure Those Closest to You Know How You’re Doing
Another way to look after yourself as a carer is by letting those closest to you know how you’re doing. It doesn’t matter whether you discuss how you’re doing with your partner or spouse, children, other relatives, or anyone else you trust.
What matters is you regularly tell those close to you how you’re feeling and if you think that you might be struggling. There are virtually no primary carers out there who can honestly say the elderly care or personal care they provide to their loved ones is “plain sailing.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the stress of caring for a loved one alongside working and caring for your own family, don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Otherwise, you won’t get the help and support you need and can contribute to carer’s burnout, as mentioned earlier.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Tell Those You Care for That You Need Help
What happens when you feel overwhelmed and unsure that you’re coping with the responsibilities that come with being a primary carer? You may think that admitting you can’t manage is akin to “admitting defeat” or that you’re letting your loved one down.
The truth is, there’s no shame in telling the person you care for that you need help to manage their care needs. Nor should you feel guilty about telling them that either.
You may find that your loved one is feeling scared and perhaps overwhelmed at the prospect of needing additional care. Your loved one might even insist they don’t need any extra care if they feel their independence is getting threatened.
But, you must have open and honest conversations with each other. Doing so will help you determine the best relationship going forward. Plus, there’s no reason why you can’t still be involved with their care needs.
For instance, HomeCaring can provide home care packages at varying levels to suit each client’s individual needs. Your loved one could depend on you for personal care while we provide domiciliary care for their other needs, such as gardening or doing the washing.
4. Take Care of Your General Health and Wellbeing
Let’s face it: when you’re a primary carer for a loved one, you will typically put the needs of your general health and wellbeing last. However, the problem with doing that is you will end up too tired and stressed to look after your loved one.
When you aren’t looking after your loved one, it’s crucial to take care of your general health and wellbeing. Examples of how you should do that include getting plenty of sleep each night, eating a balanced diet, and regular exercise.
5. Take Care of Your Emotional Health
You should also take care of your emotional health needs. You will already know that the demands placed on you to care for someone, especially when you provide senior care for someone with a life-limiting illness, are high.
Your family and friends can provide you with emotional support. But, you may also benefit from speaking with a counsellor regularly. They can give you practical advice, such as suggesting ways to manage your relationships and how to balance caring with your own life.
6. Accept Help From Care Professionals
Don’t be afraid to seek help from care professionals; you don’t need to do everything alone. Did you know that private care professionals like HomeCaring can offer several care options to coincide with the support you already provide your loved one?
For example, we can provide overnight care if you aren’t able to do so yourself. If your loved one has a disability, an NDIS provider like HomeCaring can assist with your loved one’s specific daily needs.
An NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) provider will also provide NDIS support coordination to ensure your loved one always has the right care and support when you’re not there.
7. Don’t Feel Guilty About Needing a Break
Whether you want support from NDIS service providers or those that offer supported independent living services, one thing’s for sure: you shouldn’t feel guilty about needing a break.
Most providers like HomeCaring offer respite care so you can have some time to yourself or devote more of your time to your own family.
Don’t forget that if you feel like you can’t be a primary carer anymore, other options are available. For instance, group homes or disability accommodation might be more suitable if it’s not realistic for your loved one to continue living at home.
8. Let Your Doctor Know That You’re a Carer
Lastly, don’t forget to inform your GP that you’re a primary carer. Doing so will mean your doctor can check that everything’s okay with you, and they can let you know of any beneficial schemes like free health initiatives.
When you become a primary carer for a loved one, it can often take its toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health. You must look after yourself and get the proper support you need to maintain a balanced life and healthy relationships.