Tips for Carers

Summary

  • Carers are people who look after a family member or a friend with a health condition or disability 
  • The amount of time spent caring for someone could be from a few hours a week to caring for someone 24 hours a day
  • This information sheet provides some tips to help you, the carer, look after yourself and the person you are caring for

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Support

  • Make sure that you make time for yourself and look after your own health. You are more able to care for someone when you are in good shape - physically, mentally and emotionally.   
  • Helping someone maintain their independence is a big part of a care relationship. It is important that you work together to achieve this. There are many tools and organisations available to assist you with this. See the ‘support services’ at the end of this article for more information. 

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Appointments

  • Discuss with the person you are caring for the role they would like you to take when attending appointments. For example, are they happy for you to ask questions, or would they prefer you provide silent support.
  • It’s a good idea to go to appointments together with a list of questions you would like to ask. Also consider booking a longer appointment if you have lots of questions to ask.
  • It is always helpful to have someone to take some notes or even just someone else to hear what is being said.
  • Attending appointments with the person also ensures that you are aware of any changes to treatment.   

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Emotions

  • As a carer you may experience a range of emotions and these can be difficult to deal with. Be aware of your emotions. If you need help seek assistance and discuss your situation with your GP or a psychologist or the National Carer Counselling Program.
  • It is sometimes hard for carers to understand why the person they are caring for may not follow suggestions made to them by health professionals such as regular exercise or taking medications as prescribed. Try to encourage but not push or nag the person you are caring for. They will do things in their own time and when they are ready. 
  • The person you are caring for may also experience a range of difficult emotions.  Be aware of this, and if you think they are affecting their quality of life, raise the subject with them and suggest they speak with their doctor.  

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Make things easier 

  • There are many services you can access to make things easier for yourself and the person you are caring for. The Commonwealth Home Support Program (formerly HACC) provides a variety of services including Delivered Meals, Respite Care, Domestic Assistance, Community Transport and much more. Contact My Aged Care or your local council for more information.  
  • Pace yourself. Instead of cleaning the whole house at one time, stagger the cleaning over several days. Cook meals in larger batches, so that you can freeze the leftovers for days when you don’t feel up to cooking or you have run out of time.
  • Investigate aids, gadgets and home modifications. Simple things like long handled shoe horns can allow the person you are caring for to put on their own shoes. Items such as grab rails in the bathroom can make bathing easier and safer. 
  • There are a lot of options out there to make life easier for you both.  To find out more, talk with an occupational therapist.

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Sharing the care

  • Caring, while rewarding, can at times be very hard work. It’s important that there are others who can share the work to make it easier for the main carer. This help could be in the form of cleaning or shopping, or just being available for you to talk to. 
  • As a carer you need to know your limits and boundaries. For example, if you are unable to lift the person you are caring for seek alternative devices or assistance to make things easier. Occupational therapists can assess the home and make suggestions about modifications, aids and equipment.  

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Carer Payment and Carer Allowance

  • You may be eligible to receive benefits from Centrelink, especially if you are unable to work or must work fewer hours due to your caring role.

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Medication

  • Find out about medication the person you are caring for is taking; the type, the dose, any possible side effects. 
  • It’s easy to forget to take medications regularly, especially if there are more than one and they must be taken at different times of the day. If this is a problem talk to your pharmacist about using a pill dispenser. They contain individually sealed compartments to help make taking medication easier. Your local pharmacist can be a great source of advice in this area. 
  • You can also arrange with the pharmacist to do a home medication review.  

Planning ahead

  • It‘s important to think about areas powers of attorney and guardianship in the event that the person you are caring for is no longer able to make their decisions known. Planning ahead is vital to ensure that their wishes are met. It also means that they can make any necessary plans. 
  • See the links to Carers Victoria and the Public Advocate for more information. 

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Useful resources

More information

  • Need medical information regarding your condition and commonly prescribed treatments? Or assistance navigating the health, disability and social services systems? Contact our nurses on the Help Line on 1800 263 265.
  • Interested in finding out about our upcoming webinars and seminars and other events. Click here to learn more

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