A caring role is often stressful and no matter how strong and capable you think your carer is, they will need regular time out to recharge their physical and mental batteries.
So, who is a carer? While in this instance it’s Sally, a person may be considered a carer even if they don’t live with you. A determining factor for some funding is whether the person provides more than four hours unpaid care per day.
Understanding how important it is for your carer to have a break is a big part of making care at home workable. Initially you may only need assistance with little things but over time your needs may increase. It is important to recognise the change in the household dynamics and to make time often to discuss and take stock of the situation.
Successfully negotiating the changing relationships and roles in the household involves managing the care well and balancing everyone’s different needs. If this can be done successfully, it can be a rewarding time for all concerned and make any potentially difficult times easier for everyone.
Family and friends
The ability of family/whānau members and friends to provide support will vary. Perhaps they live far away, have other demands on their time, lack confidence, or need to be in paid work. While one family/whānau member often becomes the main carer (Sally) – initially it just seems easier and less complicated – it helps for others to be involved too. Family/whānau and interpersonal dynamics often play out at this time, but it is possible to manage the less positive elements.
It’s crucial to keep communicating but sometimes these conversations can be difficult. It’s important therefore, when such conversations are had, that people leave them feeling the discussion has been helpful and that their opinions have been heard. Tips for helpful conversations include:
- Bringing your goodwill and a positive, constructive attitude.
- Making time for the discussion.
- Avoiding important discussions when you are feeling tired or stressed.
- Listening for longer than you talk.
- Listening without judging.
- Letting everyone have their say – unfinished sentences can easily lead to misunderstandings.
- Being prepared to compromise – sometimes the best solutions are those no-one had thought of beforehand.
Research shows that providing education for carers is beneficial. It reduces stress as it improves the carer’s knowledge of relevant medical conditions and often gives practical training about safety issues such as correct lifting techniques. Carers can learn how the assessment system works and what financial and other assistance might be available. Several support organisations offer these services. They are usually free. If you cannot access a service near you, use the internet to find one or seek out relevant printed material. Ask at Age Concern.
Think about the practical resources you already have and what might be needed. If you have never been in this situation before, you may not know what could be useful. You can learn a lot by visiting a disability equipment shop to have a scout around and get ideas. Ask, if you’re not sure how various products work. Don’t feel compelled to buy. Getting susidised equipment can be a slow process so if this is something that could be of help to you, link in with your GP, healthcare service and older person’s/NASC as soon as possible to get the ball rolling.
While we are not sure yet how services might change in this COVID environment, some type of assessment to determine eligibility to subsidised services is likely, and those services that were available pre-COVID will probably continue to be offered but with possible adaptations.
Access to subsidised services that will help you manage your day-to-day requirements, including personal hygiene and showering assistance, is determined by an assessment. Any support you receive need to work in tandem with that provided by your carer. As there is huge variation in the type of support a carer can provide, it is particularly important that everyone involved in your care understands the level of confidence, skills, strengths and abilities of your carer. This person needs to be recognised as a key member of your team and included in decision-making.
Using the allocated amount and suggested types of subsidised service is a good choice, as regular and routine support is best. The person coordinating your services will also be familiar with the services offered and available in your area, so they are well placed to advise you. There may be financial implications as subsidies may not cover the full cost of everything you want and there may be additional charges for those services. Discuss any concerns about this with your service coordinator. Make sure you are receiving any other financial support you may be eligible for.
It is easy to get tied up in the day-to-day practicalities and this can become isolating. Try to keep life normal for you both – if possible, go to social events and day programmes, use the Total Mobility scheme if transport assistance is needed and if you are eligible. Accept offers of help.
Caring relationships are usually based on love and all parties need to feel loved. Sally can feel loved by having regular 'time out' to recharge her physical and mental batteries. Remember, a caring role is often stressful and no matter how strong and capable you think your carer is, the relationship can become strained. Time out for you both is important. Current ‘time out’ options include, day programmes, Respite and Carer Support.