Today is the start of Carers Week, marked annually in October. It’s a great opportunity for us all to reflect on the tireless and often unacknowledged work of our unpaid carers, who make extraordinary sacrifices every day for their loved ones.
The role of a carer is often relentless. According to the aged care royal commission, carers need to take respite in small and regular amounts to encourage the long-term sustainability of their caring roe.
Here are Care Guidance’s top tips for carers to make sure they are caring for themselves, too.
1. Acknowledge your caring role
Many carers don’t identify themselves as carers. They just think they are doing what any loving spouse, daughter or son would do for a loved in need. But if you don’t acknowledge your role as a carer, you are at greater risk of burning out from the sometimes relentless nature of being a carer. This is an outcome that has serious ramifications for you and the person you care for. That’s why its so important that carers recognize the role they play.
2. Find out about the services available to you
Because many carers don’t see themselves as such, it doesn’t occur to them to look for carer support services. This means they are missing out on a range of government-funded services and supports designed to help carers and their loved ones. These services can greatly enrich the lives of the person being cared for, and give carers a well-deserved regular break.
3. Connect with other carers
Finding and connecting with peers who are also caring for a loved one can dramatically reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation for carers. Socialising and sharing experiences with others in a similar situation is vital to helping carers feel connected to the wider world. Other carers can also give you ideas and tips on the services and supports available in your local area to help you in your caring role.
4. Make time for you
This is the most important tip! Without regular breaks and time-out from your caring role, the risk of carer burnout increases. And when carers burnout, the person they care for often finds themselves being admitted to residential aged care much earlier than they or their carer would like. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you and your loved one, it is absolutely vital that you make time to take care of yourself. This includes making time to pursue hobbies or work, or other activities that provide enjoyment and fulfillment.
5. Access respite care
Finding time for yourself is hard. That’s why the government funds respite services. You can access day-respite for a few hours, or respite in a residential aged care home for a few days or even weeks, meaning you could even take a short holiday. While you may feel guilty at first when it come to arranging respite care for your loved one, remember that taking time out for yourself is key to maintaining your caring role and making sure you don’t burn out. Accessing respite regularly might help you to care for your loved one for longer, delaying or preventing entry into residential care, which many carers state is their preference.