These five tips are essential to help carers best look after themselves and their charges.
Carers understand the importance of tending to the needs of the person in their charge but Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley says they often neglect their own health and wellbeing.
“When caregivers do not take care of themselves and don’t get a break, they increase their own risk of health problems,” she said, adding that studies show that caregivers manage stress in less healthy ways than the general population.
“The most important thing to remember is that small changes can go a long way. You can even make it something simple, such as carving out 15 minutes of ‘me time’ each day.”
Ms Buckley said to reduce the health risks faced by caregivers there are five indispensable items every carer needs:
- a daily or weekly timetable of time-outs for self care
- regularly scheduled three-monthly check-ups for own health
- a detailed backup plan for self in case of unexpected illness
- an Advance Care Directive – for self and loved one – this is a document which states your wishes or directions regarding future health care for various medical conditions if you are unable to make your own decisions
- technology monitoring eg. Feros Care’s LifeLink Smart Home Technologies provide assistive technology products to support people with a wide variety of care needs, providing peace of mind for carers of people facing risks of falls, diabetes, dementia, epilepsy, chronic disease, physical disability and post hospitalisation care.
There are 2.7 million carers in Australia providing unpaid care and support to family members or friends who are frail and aged, have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition or a terminal illness.
“Many of these carers overlook the importance of self care as they lose themselves in the demands of their daily role,” said Ms Buckley. “Being a carer of a loved one, particularly, can limit opportunities for socialising, making new friends and maintaining relationships,” she said. “It is important to timetable a schedule for respite, either in-home, day centre or residential.
It’s also important to schedule in some time for hobbies and favourite pastimes and allow family and friends to help and to maintain contact with your social network family and friends via Skype.
“Support groups and peer support are valuable in reducing the feelings of isolation. It is just as important to have social time for your own mental health and well-being as it is visiting a health professional every three months for physical checkups,” Ms Buckley said. “Care support networks either face to face or even by phone are also invaluable when it comes to connecting with people in similar caring roles. You can share practical hints and tips or simply ‘off-load’ to someone who knows just how challenging your day is.”
Some quick low cost but effective ways of getting in some relaxation time every day include:
- Practising deep breathing meditation. The key to this breathing technique is taking long, deep breaths through the abdomen.
- Imagining yourself in a peaceful spot.
- Finding a diversion. Look for anything that takes you out of your head. It might be playing cards or listening to music on your iPod.
- Owning a pet. Just watching a fish tank can be calming.
- Practising yoga or Tai chi to promote flexibility, strength, stamina and deep breathing techniques and lower stress levels.
The demands on a carer’s time are usually consistent, but carers report that being well prepared is the secret to managing situations which are unexpected and out of the blue. Just knowing that you have compiled a few things about the process ahead of time can make for a smoother, less stressful experience.
Keep a list of care service providers, online carer support groups and other helpful, informative resources at your fingertips. It’s also a good idea to compile a carer record book listing medical information of the person in care and emergency contact numbers that can be given to police, ambulance or hospital staff.
Carers Australia provide a downloadable Carer Record Kit which can be used by the carer to quickly locate medical history, important contacts and appointments.
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