National Carers Week is a time to recognise the 2.65 million Australians who provide care and support to a family member or friend.
Carers are family members or friends who provide unpaid care and support for someone that has a disability, chronic condition, terminal illness, is frail aged, has a mental health condition, or alcohol or other drug-related challenges. Anyone can be a carer, but many people don’t identify as one. Caring may include help and support with a range of daily activities, including dressing, showering, arranging doctors’ appointments or managing medications.
Carers are an important part of Australia’s health system and are the foundation of our aged, disability, palliative and community care systems. Research shows that one-third of carers experience severe depression and that being a carer for someone else could be one of the leading causes of their depression (Beyondblue 2016). The demands of caring can sometimes feel relentless. Many carers experience physical, mental or emotional tension related to their caring role.
Many carers can feel alone and unsupported as it may be difficult to access services and ask for support from friends and family members. They can experience social isolation, especially if the caregiving role is fulltime; there can be little or no time for socialising. It may even be impossible to leave the house. High levels of stress that are prolonged can affect a carer’s wellbeing. Taking note of the more tired we become, the slower and unsympathetic we become, which can lead to guilt for lack of compassion given. A carer’s role is unlike a 9-5 role exhaustion can creep up quickly.
If you are a carer, it’s important to look after your health and wellbeing by seeking out support to help you and your family. It will help you have the strength and energy required for your role as a carer. You may experience feelings of guilt for taking care of yourself; however, you need to keep doing the activities you enjoy outside of your caring role. To avoid becoming worn out, so take regular breaks and do something for yourself every day.
Some things that might help are:
• Create a network of people that can help from family, friends and services. If possible, don’t carry the load alone
• Update friends and relatives via email to reduce the number of phone calls you need to make. This can save you time
• Keep a calendar for appointments and document issues as they present themselves this can save you trying to remember the details
• Set up a roster and share the load with others
• Ask a relative or consider a local private service or access help at your local council to do your household chores
• Discuss flexible work options with your employer
• Ask a friend to stay overnight. It may help you get a good night’s sleep and provide extra company
If you know a career, there are ways that you might be able to help, for example, prepare some meals, offer to help with the household chores and make regular contact.
If you are feeling distressed, frustrated, guilty, exhausted, or annoyed, it is important to know that these feelings are normal. If you find your role as a carer overwhelming, it may help to discuss your feelings with your GP or a counsellor. A shout out to all the carers, you are doing an amazing job!