Becoming the Primary Caregiver for Your Loved One
In modern times there are many people raising their own children or grandchildren, and also providing some level of care to their ageing parents. If this is your situation you’re not alone. There are also many older adults providing care for their spouses and/ or older parents. This is due to a variety of reasons including cognitive and physical impairment. Taking care of yourself and getting support such as respite care will help in the long term.
Taking Care of Yourself
If you’re a full-time carer for a loved one, it’s exhausting and does take a toll on many aspects of your life. It’s tough when you’re trying to juggle work, relationships, caring, and all other activities of daily living. It’s so important that you don’t forget about your needs and that you’re open to getting all of the help that you can. If you don’t take care of you, it’s much harder to take care of somebody else. Steps that you can do that don’t necessarily require help from others includes getting plenty of sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, making sure you exercise regularly and making efforts to stay social.
Putting Systems in Place
Aged Care nowadays has a holistic approach with a consumer-directed approach. This means that your loved one’s involved in all of the decision making when it comes to meeting their care needs and care goals. If the person that you’re caring for wants to, getting a geriatric assessment with a Geriatrician will aid in identifying the person’s needs, and recognise any possible health issues that are treatable. Also, by having an assessment with the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) will determine the aged care services that your loved one’s eligible to receive. You can arrange this by contacting My Aged Care.
Another matter to consider for your loved one is for them to arrange an Enduring Power of Attorney and/ or completing an Advanced Health Directive, while they’re still mentally able to make such decisions regarding their future wishes.
Where to Get Help
Arranging aged care services through My Aged Care is one step towards getting the support that you need as a caregiver for your loved one. These services are typically government subsidised too. Whether you’re self-funding the care and support that’s required or accessing government-funded services, there are many areas where support is possible.
Firstly, respite care exists to give the caregiver the much needed time that they require in their life. It’s arranged either on a formal or informal basis. Respite care’s offered in the community, in the home setting, and in an aged care home for those who need it and are eligible to receive it. Respite care can be a one-off or arranged on a regular basis.
Other avenues to gain support include engaging other family members and friends to help out where they can. For example, they might be able to help out with transport to and from medical appointments or church, or they might be able to come over and care for your loved one from time to time. However pressure’s alleviated from you, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Change is Difficult
Often your elderly loved one will resist your efforts to help and support. Many people don’t want to burden others as they get older. If it’s your Mum or Dad that’s moved in with you, they might have feelings of sadness that they’ve left their home, and sometimes they’re embarrassed that they aren’t able to cope without help and support. They probably miss their old surroundings, friends and neighbours. Sometimes they may appear angry or depressed as a result of the recent changes. Remember that they’re grieving for their previous life, and it takes time to adjust.
Consider bringing as much of your family member’s items with them when they move in. Having photographs, wall hangings, their favourite chair and bedspread will help them to feel like they still have a part of their home with them. Also if they’ve moved areas, it’s reassuring for your elderly family member if they can find a regular G.P., banker, dentist, grocery store, etc. This will eventually become the new familiar.
Another way that you can help with such a transition is to offer support with getting affairs in order. For example, help them to set up direct debits for regular bills. You could also help them to seek financial advice to manage properties, investments, assets, etc. That then reduces extra worry regarding day to day affairs, if they’re all in order.
If you’re adjusting to being a full-time caregiver of a loved one, the Carer Gateway offers a variety of support, advice and access to services for carers. You can call them on 1800 422 737.