Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days, but that’s because we all need it. Carers especially are in a role which prioritises the wellbeing of others, with their time and attention spent looking after someone else.
Carving out time for yourself can seem like adding just another thing on your ever expanding to-list though, and many struggle with the guilt of wanting a break. However if you forgo self-care, it’s likely you’ll end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unwell.
While jetting off for a holiday or planning a lavish spa retreat may not be in your foreseeable future, there are small ways in which you can look after yourself while still caring for others and there are support services for carers.
The first and most important thing to do is to set clear boundaries on your time. This of course can be easier said than done, especially if the person you care for is a close family member. They might not understand why you need your own time and can’t be there for them 24/7. Even if you explain the situation, they might not agree with you—remind yourself that you know what’s best for you, and you don’t need to justify your needs.
Home-based care and home- based respite care is also available to support you and your loved one. If you provide care for a family member, they may be eligible for some government assistance for home based care. This means that not only can somebody else help take on the caring duties but the person you care for will also have access to special equipment to help around the house and transport for outings!
Schedule in your self-care
Scheduling in classes or events you want to participate in can help with keeping your time boundaries in check. If there’s a yoga class you like to get to in order to feel relaxed for the rest of the week, or a coffee date with a friend, or time spent clocking up laps in the pool, schedule it in as an appointment. Block out this time so that you have this hour or so devoted to your needs.
It might sound a bit daunting at first but getting some outside help, even once a week, can allow you that hour even to take a walk as well as giving your loved one a fresh face to interact with!
When you do get time to yourself, you may be feeling tired and stressed, and therefore less than social. However staying connected with your friends and the community around you is important; it can prevent you from becoming isolated. If you’re unable to meet up in person with a friend, stay in touch by the phone or through social media. You may also want to reach out to fellow carers through specific forums, such as the one on the Carers Australia website.
To lessen your workload, try to delegate what you can. Being a primary carer is a big responsibility and can be tough to shoulder alone. Can another family member help out with the caring? Perhaps a friend can lend a hand with the washing and ironing? It may be only a small chunk of their day, but it can make all the difference.
To find out more options available to you, start by searching our site for Home Based support in your area.
Utilise services available
Respite care, whether it’s for an hour, a day or a week, can offer you a much-needed reprieve. Don't forget about looking into eligibility for government assistance for home based care. Organised through My Aged Care, a non invasive assessment can be done at home to let you know the level of assistance the person is eligible for. Even the lowest level package (Level 1) offers assistance with things like gardening and cleaning to help free up some time.
Be creative with your time
Multi-tasking gets a bad rap these days, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to get everything done. During quiet periods of care, pull out that book or magazine you’ve been wanting to read, or listen to that podcast you’re interested in. You may even be able to duck out to catch a movie by making use of supervised community centres or social groups—that way the person you care for will be having fun while being looked after while you get a break.