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Being a carer for a loved one is hard. In this episode of Grey Matters, Tracey and Ben discuss tips to help carers stay the distance while looking after themselves as well.

Key points discussed:

  • How to be a great carer without falling apart yourself
  • Practical things you can do to support your loved one and yourself
  • What to consider if your loved one has dementia

 

Read Full Transcript

Ben Davis:
Welcome to Grey Matters. Probably one of the more important podcasts and topics that we will discuss throughout this entire series. Ben Davis alongside Tracey Silvester from Seasons Aged Care. Tracey, perhaps the forgotten people, the ones who seem invisible. I'm talking carers. They go without a lot of credit, a lot of acknowledgement, and obviously without pay.

Tracey Silvester:
Absolutely, Ben. I think that there's enough evidence around and enough research has been done on the significant issue that is caring in this country. Largely, female. There are an increasing number of younger people who are taking on the role as carer for parents who have got some sort of illness. If we had to pay those carers for all of the services that they provided to whoever they're caring for, then the country would go broke.

So, it is very invisible but it's really tough being a carer. Can you think about it? You're actually on duty effectively for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in some instances. There's no pay for that, there's no break. For some people they can't leave the house, because the person they're caring for has got such significant care needs that they can't be left alone. It's a marathon. That sort of role can go on for a really, really long time.

Ben Davis:
How do you be a great carer and not fall apart yourself?

Tracey Silvester:
I think it's a bit like everything – don't think you can do everything yourself. This sort of harks back to a few of the other podcasts we've done around don't feel afraid to ask for help. There's actually quite a lot of assistance out there for carers. In fact, the government has invested quite a significant amount of money into carer support just in the last little while. There's more carer resources and supports to come online very soon, including counselling for carers, online tools for carers to actually support them a little bit better, helplines, et cetera. All that's going to come forward. But I think it's important to realise you can't do it all yourself.

Ben Davis:
That's important to know too, because we know that the sandwich generation is getting bigger and more prevalent.

Tracey Silvester:
Yeah, we're seeing increasingly numbers of people who perhaps delayed having children themselves until they were in their late 30s and early 40s. So they've got primary school children as well as ageing parents to look after. That's creating a huge issue, because those same people have still got their own careers. It's really difficult, because they're torn between their responsibilities to their kids, responsibilities to their mum and dad, and responsibilities to their career. So there is a changing demographic around carers. A large majority of carers are still spouse carers, but there's an increasing number of those sort of 40s and 50s old age group looking after ageing parents as well as their kids.

Ben Davis:
It's almost like those triple-decker sandwiches you used to make as a kid-

Tracey Silvester:
That's right-

Ben Davis:
You're sandwiched between kids, parents, and throw your career in there as well.

Tracey Silvester:
That's right. Particularly as we've had more women have careers as well. So women have been more active participants in the workplace in the last generation, we don't have that ... Because historically it was those same women who stayed at home with their children and then they became the carer for their ageing parents.

Ben Davis:
Alright, well let's nut it down to some practical things we can do to not only support your love one who needs the care, but support you as well.

Tracey Silvester:
First thing to do is if you're over that age 65, get onto My Aged Care and put up your hand and say, "Help”. Even if that's just as simple as having a day a week where you go shopping, or you go out and do something that you like doing. Because we all know the importance of maintaining social connectivity as we age. Then that gives you a break away from that 24/7 role. It's also actually important for the person being cared for to have some social connectivity as well.

Ben Davis:
Just see different faces-

Tracey Silvester:
Absolutely-

Ben Davis:
Different interaction.

Tracey Silvester:
That's right. So there's all sorts of programmes that people can go to. So you can either have people come to your house and stay with the person while you go out. They can go out to a respite programme, so going out. There's all sorts of social programmes set up specifically for people who have care needs to enable them to continue to socialise.

Ben Davis:
Alright, my mum and dad or husband/wife has dementia. What are some of the things I need to consider here?

Tracey Silvester:
I think the thing with dementia, by and large, it's a bit like any caring role. It's a marathon, it's not a sprint. If you try and go at a million miles an hour right up front, you're going to burn out pretty quickly. I think that it's a bit like any race. You have to pace yourself. You can't be perfect all the time.

Often a diagnosis of dementia can come as a bit of a surprise, as well. You can be wandering along in life with your partner or your mother or your father or a beloved aunty and everything's going okay, then all of a sudden you have a diagnosis of dementia. Be kind to yourself, so that you can actually be kind to the person that you're caring for. Acknowledge that you can't be everything to everybody. Acknowledge ... And work out, I guess, you will know better than anybody what the triggers are for the person with dementia. So what sorts of things do they respond to? What sort of things do they not respond to? Work through that, and don't actually be too hard on yourself or them because acknowledging that some of the behaviours are behaviours that they've got no control over.

Ben Davis:
I hope this clicks to everyone listening now, because carers as we said are so important but so selfless as well. You need to not be selfish, but you do need to take a bit of time for yourself, don't you?

Tracey Silvester:
Absolutely. I think if you can't look after yourself, then you can't actually continue to be in that caring role. So if your goal is to care for that person for as long as possible, potentially right through until they pass away, then you're going to have to look at it as a longer term strategy. You can't actually go a million miles an hour all the time in that. And acknowledge that you don't get it right all the time, either.

Ben Davis:
You are the oracle. Words of wisdom as always, Tracey. Thank you for joining us on Grey Matters.

Tracey Silvester:
Thanks, Ben.

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Tracey Silvester
Tracey Silvester is Executive Manager of Envigor and has more than 25 years’ experience in health and aged care services. Tracey is committed to ensuring that our elders are able to exercise their right to choose how they live their lives regardless of their ability or function. Tracey is a Registered Nurse and has a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Health Management. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Australian College of Health Service Management and a surveyor with the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.
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