During a time of serious, critical or permanent illness, the appointment of a carer can offer a sense of certainty and security to you and to your loved ones. Your carer may be someone that is a friend, family member or your partner. It’s important that they have the right resources, support services and financial ability to remain attentive to your needs.
If you are a carer, it is essential that you prioritise your wellbeing too and ensure that you have sufficient relief to avoid exhaustion.
Ways in which you can look after yourself include:
- Seek support for yourself. Often there are organisations, local groups, forums and Facebook communities for carers of a particular illness or injury. See the list of suggested support organisations to contact below.
- Take time for you. Are you finding time to do something you enjoy regularly? Ask friends or family to help with the caring while you take a break. If you need to be away for periods of time, you might find services like Vitalcall useful or the services of a night nurse or carer may offer peace of mind while you take some needed personal time.
- Respite options. In the event that you, the carer, become unwell and are not able to continue caring for your loved one or you need an extended break, you could consider asking a family member to step in or arrange respite care either in their home or in a facility. If you require the coordination of respite care, contact the Carer Gateway on 1800 052 222 (1800 059 059 outside business hours).
Signs of carer exhaustion
It is important for loved ones to understand the vital role that carers play and to be aware of signs of carer stress. These include:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Becoming withdrawn or showing less interest in socialising, hobbies and activities
- Changes in mood. Irritability, depression or reduced tolerance
- Changes in appetite and weight-loss
- Changes in sleep or sleep deprivation
- Becoming ill more regularly
- Emotional exhaustion or mood swings
If you notice signs of change, it is time to give the carer regular or extended breaks, refer them to the GP for a check-up and arrange for carer support organisations to support them and their wellbeing.
There are groups dedicated to supporting carers.
- Carer Gateway can help you find the right support and advice about being a carer as well as providing specific guides on mental health and other illnesses.
- The Department of Social Services provides an extensive list of support services for Carers
- If you need counselling support, reach out to Carers Australia network or call 1800 242 636
- MyAgedCare and FacingDementiaTogether can provide advice on caring for people with dementia
- has a number of resources including a toolkit for carers of people with mental illness
- LifeCircle Australia - support for people caring for someone with a life-limiting illness
Financial support for carers.
Being a carer is often stressful. Here are some options that may ease the financial burden and assist you in meeting your financial costs as well as the needs of your loved one while acting in a carer’s capacity.
- Centrelink’s payment and services finder can help determine what payments and other services you may be entitled to – the Department of Human Services offers financial assistance for carers.
- Explore options with your employer and ask about carer’s leave entitlements – employers have an obligation to assist you if you are a carer.
- Inform your service providers (such as banks and utilities) if you’re worried about your carer’s duties impacting on paying your loans and bills on time.
- Local councils (and some utilities) may offer reduced rates for people on carer’s Pensions – let them know and explore your options.