Looking after yourself
The information on this page is also available as a downloadable Quick Guide, by clicking below. There are PDF and word versions.
We all benefit from close supportive relationships with people who we trust and who we care about and who care about us. These informal relationships are generally of central value in our lives. People who care for a family member or friend living with disability will often understand that they fulfill a role that is an integral part of that person’s life.
The NDIA recognises that “The ongoing capacity of family and carers is critical to the wellbeing of participants. Support loads and other factors such as illness and ageing can place carers’ wellbeing at risk and compromise their capacity to continue in the caring role. Sustaining informal support can be an integral component of meeting the participant’s needs.”
At times caring can be demanding and may impact on the lives of family and friends who support a person living with disability. Quite often the role brings with it other demands such as advocacy, battling bureaucracy and ensuring rights are upheld.
A bit of stress is normal but when stress becomes unrelenting and overwhelming, it can begin to affect your health and wellbeing.
So let’s get talking about looking after yourself.
Let’s make it happen
It may be worth bringing in an outside agency to talk about the value of looking after yourself. State based Carer organisations can deliver workshops or provide a guest speaker.
Get the group talking
Stress – Group conversation starters.
- How do you know if you are stressed? (Record answers)
- Identify situations that stress you.
- Let’s share some 5 min stress busters – what do you do that gives you some time to yourself or to relive stress. It may be listening to music, reading a magazine, being in garden or going for a walk. Have members write ideas on post it notes and pop on a wall and then share them as a group – perhaps collate them into a stress buster tip sheet.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Focus on what you can do to make a difference and identify and accept the things you can’t change. As a group talk about what you are good at and what you need help with – someone in the group may be that helper or know someone who can.
Many people in the group may have had a hobby that has lost it prominence in their lives due to their role as a carer. Go around the group and ask if anyone has or had a hobby?
Write a list of them and see if there are any the same – perhaps these members can share their hobby at another meeting.
Getting the group to think about things that they used to enjoy may bring those things back into their lives again and provide some therapeutic benefit away from the caring role.
Is there anything that the group would like to learn? (scrap booking, journaling, a new language). Many community centre will host club or courses and you may be able to ask them to visit the group.
It may start with a tongue in cheek selfie snap but talk about yourselves at a meeting and not the caring role.
Everyone’s life journey is a blend of milestones, events and memories and sometimes recalling these can bring joy into the present.
So let’s talk selfie – starters.
- Describe a childhood memory
- What was your first job?
- Who has had the most influence on you as a person?
- Have you ever laughed so hard you cried…When/Why?
- Where have you travelled or where do you want to go?
- How did you meet your partner?
- What was the last joke you heard?
Taking a break
Although the NDIS does not fund respite for carers directly, it does recognise the need for carers to have breaks from their caring role. Respite outcomes can be achieved as an indirect benefit to carers while NDIS funded supports are provided to the person with a disability.
It can be difficult to continue in the caring role without taking regular breaks to focus on other aspects of your life.
The way ‘taking a break’ looks in one family will be different to another family. There are many types and supports available for ‘taking a break’ and the group could share what they do at the moment.
- In-home respite
- Facility or residential based – short term care facility
- Community based – day programs or activity programs
- Alternative Care – friends relatives or volunteer
- Emergency respite
Some in the group may be hesitant about taking a break. They worry about leaving the person they care for and feel they cannot trust another person.
Concerns are normal but they need to be balanced against the risk that you will burn out.
Having a break can allow you time to reenergise, to reconnect and enjoy other relationships.
As a group you can chat about how to plan for a break and how to overcome any barriers.
Looking after yourself as a carer is part of looking after the person you support.
Where you can find more information
Talk to your doctor if you feel that stress is affecting your health: General Practitioners are a good place to touch base and can refer you to other services.
Carers Australia: is the national peak body representing Australia’s carers, advocating on behalf of Australia’s carers to influence policies and services at a national level. It works collaboratively with partners and its member organisations, the Network of state and territory Carers Associations, to deliver a range of essential national carer services.
http://www.carersaustralia.com.au/home/ or contact your State based Carer Organisation –
For information about carer supports and services in your area, call the National Carer Advocacy Line – 1800 242 636
Ask your local community centre, gym or council for information about activities in your area: Visit the “be Active” website
Local Councils: may provide a respite service and be willing to have a speaker visit the group.
Mental Health Australia and Carers Australia: have developed a Guide for Mental Health Carers on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and a Mental Health Carer Checklist to prepare for NDIS assessment and planning meetings, which are both available here:
Siblings: See the Quick Guide on Support for Siblings and the Siblings Australia website
The Independent Advisory Council to the NDIS has a written a paper on reasonable and necessary support for families. It is available here:
Co-authored by Association for Children with a Disability