Did you know that about 1 in 11 people in Australia are carers for a family member or a friend? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re one of them and are looking for some support. If you’re caring for an elderly parent or someone with a terminal illness, it can be really difficult to put your own needs first. While caring for a loved one is a valiant thing to do, neglecting your own health can lead to issues with your physical and/or mental health. So, with all of this in mind, let’s make an action plan now to take care of you. Here are some tips that might help.
Talk to a health professional
If you’ve recently become a carer, it’s important to find a psychologist or a counsellor who will hear your concerns and stresses without judgement and who can help you navigate your new role. The same sentiment rings true if you’ve been a carer for a while now – it always helps to receive advice and learn new coping mechanisms to alleviate anxiety and stress. It’s also a good idea to see someone longterm, or whenever you feel that familiar feeling of overwhelm, so that things don’t get worse over time. In other words, nip it in the bud as soon as it rears its ugly head.
Your best bet is to visit a GP who makes you feel heard. From there, you can weigh your options and even book an appointment for a mental health care plan. These plans will subsidise up to 10 appointments with some mental health providers through Medicare (just check with your chosen practitioner that they accept these referrals, as not all do).
Join a support group for carers
These can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly meetings, usually held in community spaces. You can also join a group of people who are in a similar situation to yourself, such as young carers, carers of parents, carers with a similar cultural background, or carers of people with a particular disease or condition.
Introduce a ‘fun night’ out for yourself
This could be a weekly massage, taking yourself out for a meal, seeing a movie at the cinemas every Tuesday, or staying in and watching something at home. It’s time that’s carved out just for you, but you could also invite friends or family members if you’d prefer some company. The best part about your fun night? It’s whatever you want to do. You call the shots.
Stay physically active in ways that bring you joy
It doesn’t have to be cycling, jogging or signing up to a team sport, but if this is what brightens your day, then go for it! This can also be lighter forms of exercise like yin yoga, pilates or going for 30 minute walks. If you have a little more time, you might take yourself off for a hike in nature.
Join an online carers forum
SANE’s online Carers Forum is a safe online space where you can share your experiences, provide tips for others in your situation, and express your feelings as well. Plus, it’s great if you’re unable to attend the support groups in person.
Sign up for free short-term counselling
Depending on what state you live in, free short-term counselling may also be available. If you provide any type of care and carer support to a family member or a friend, or if you have recently stopped providing care (say, if the person you cared for had to be moved into a care home or has passed away), then you are eligible for support services.
Click the links below to be directed to the relevant pages.
At any time, for more immediate help, you can also visit these sites or call:
Always remember that support is available for carers in Australia. If you haven’t already, find your Support for Carers Program provider, and for further information and guidance head to Carers Australia or call 1800 242 636.