Caring for a senior? Be sure to care for yourself too
Tips for carers providing aged care assistance at homeCaring for senior loved ones at home is a demanding yet rewarding experience. During my time caring for my nanna I felt both joy at our precious time together and tears at the physical and emotional exhaustion of it all. If you’re providing aged care assistance at home, take some time to come up for air a moment. You’ve got this.
Caring for seniors can be lonelyAs a young person I felt isolated caring for a senior loved one, when my commitments as a carer limited my social activities and no-one I knew had such a responsibility. I missed having someone to share my experiences with. Day in, day out, juggling my work and home care obligations, I wasn’t sure who to turn to.
Maybe you feel as if autopilot has kicked in in order to keep you on track for what you need to do and everything just has its own momentum. Life’s so busy and it takes all your energy to keep things under control. You’re feeling so far removed from your loved ones and friends who you don’t have time to see anymore.
I was there and it was frightening. I’m so grateful I leaned in to the support from the Carer Gateway. I needed to connect with someone who knew what this was like. The team at the Carer Gateway were wonderful, understanding and had time to listen to my story and provided support without judgement. Having my own carer support worker, a friendly and compassionate person, in addition to practical help made such a big difference.
Make use of respite care for senior carersMy new routine with nanna had me handling all of her appointments to various specialists as well was the day to day running of the household. I had to reduce my working hours from full time to part time in order to cope with the additional commitments. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that and my employer was supportive. I was able to be more focused at work and managed to maintain some energy for home.
It’s a big ask, to be looking after another person whose healthcare needs are increasing. We’re not emotionless robots. You can be drained emotionally, particularly if you’re looking after elderly parents and loved ones. We’re human and we need rest.
You can access respite care (a qualified carer to help give you a break) at home so you can rest and recuperate. Looking after yourself is important so you can look after your loved ones. And taking a break doesn’t mean having to take your elderly parents somewhere for their care.
Draw on experts to help when you’re caring for seniorsEven if you’re a health professional – as I am – it makes good sense to check in with another professional on a regular basis. When you are really close to a loved one and so emotionally involved it can be difficult to make objective decisions about the care your loved one needs. By meeting with an independent person, we can make this easier for you by recommending and arranging the home care services that best fit. It's important you spend time with your loved one, rather than spending hours making calls and understanding the home care system.
What if a senior has a range of physical, mental and emotional needs to consider? Getting a holistic needs assessment could benefit you and your senior loved one, to take as many responsibilities off your plate as possible and get a care plan formulated in close consultation with a senior’s family doctor.
Adjust senior care services for changing needsWe can become pretty efficient problem-solvers, making do with what we have at home. Perhaps you need someone to come and install some safety equipment or get some mobility aids, when you’ve been so accustomed to being there and providing physical support. Your senior loved one’s health status can change, raising the need for new services or reducing the support needed.
Consider engaging a case manager to provide ongoing support for changing needs, helping you make referrals for new services and liaising with service providers to take away that extra stress.
Caring for yourself helps you to care for seniors
It’s ok to talk about being a carer and all of the unique challenges you’re experiencing. Taking time to rest and reset is important. Could you make use of in-home respite care services?
If you could use support from people who know what you’re feeling, the Carer Gateway is a good place to start. For professionals in the home-based aged care field, a professional mentoring session can give you space to work through any difficult situations and help to find solutions. Looking after yourself means you’re more able to be a strong support to seniors.
Need some support from a home-based care professional with lived carer experience? Book in for our Home Care Advisory Service for a confidential chat and advice about where to get the services and support you need.
Nicole Dunn is a Carer Champion and advocates for the wellbeing of carers engaged in home-based aged care.