Working carers can easily ignore their own physical and emotional health when caring for others.
They often don't recognise the symptoms of stress they are experiencing, but it is always better to seek support before getting sick or burning out.
There are lots of places where support may be forthcoming. The challenge is to find out what works for you and what you are comfortable with. Some suggestions are to seek support from:
- your doctor or counsellor
- friends or trusted neighbours
- a carer support or community group
- online carer services
- a church association
- other family members.
Some carers find support groups helpful. They enable you to share experiences, exchange information and point each other towards organisations that have been particularly helpful. Some support groups may offer stress management or exercise classes.
Support groups also encourage carers to care for themselves and help remind you it is not selfish to attend to your own needs. Many support groups are run by professionals, such as social workers, and can help you devise productive strategies for dealing with intra-family conflict or tensions that may arise around difficult caregiving decisions.
If you prefer to seek support from friends, family or neighbours, think in terms of concrete actions that can help. Could a friend pick up groceries for you? Could a neighbour do garden work for you or give you a lift to the doctor? Could a relative keep the care recipient company so you can take a break – go to a movie, the gym, take a walk or a drive, or do some shopping for yourself?
Perhaps you could set up a regular visit from a friend (yours or the care recipient’s) so that you don't feel so isolated or overloaded. You may not be able to reciprocate, but don’t worry. The people who care about you want to help and you may be able to return the help at a later time.
As a carer, you may feel you are the only one dealing with a person who is challenging. If you are caring for an older person with dementia, for example, they might at times be aggressive, demanding, difficult or belligerent. You may feel sad your elder is in need when once they were so capable and independent. The relationship dynamics may have changed completely.
You may also be dealing with siblings or other family members who criticise you or do not share in the work of caring, even if it is for a parent.
There are many organisations to help you find a support group suited to your needs. Some are organised around a particular city or region, while others are focused on the kind of illness or condition a person may have.
Support groups can be in person or they can be online. There are also some health care providers that provide carer support groups. Call your doctor or health insurance provider to get referrals to groups that might be covered under your health plan.
One of the best ways to find support groups and resources in your area is through the Carers NSW Australia website: https://www.carersnsw.org.au/ They also operate a Carers Line on: 1800 242 636 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
The Carers Line is staffed by experienced carer support officers who offer emotional support and referrals, and distribute carer specific resources and information to carers, service providers and community members. They understand the issues carers face and the supports carers can access in their local community.