Being a carer is hard. The focus is often on the needs of the care receiver. Yet the carer can be on call 24/7 for months or years on end. It is exhausting and leaves little time for sleep or time to contemplate your own needs and health.
In care partnerships, both parties are often concerned about having external care providers. It is a significant act of generosity to insist your carer accesses support and respite regularly.
Respite care is best accessed as an early intervention. This may be informal arrangements provided by family or friends. Or formal services provided by external agencies such as Carers WA, Silver chain, Cancer council or the Commonwealth home support program. The advantage of early access means you can cope if it takes a while to sort things out. But it also provides opportunities for everyone to become familiar and comfortable with the process without being overwhelmed.
People often want to help but are unsure of how and not all people are suited to all tasks. Have a think about who would be best suited to help out in smaller ways. Such as driving to routine appointments, making a meal, tidying the house or garden or managing bill payments or acting as a communication hub.
Carers, remember you need to look after yourself first in order to be of service to others. Even machines need regular care and maintenance, and without it, everything will fall over.
Be there for others but never leave yourself behind – Dodinsky
Respite care can be provided in many ways by several services. Respite may include a few hours a week or a few days a month, or even a few weeks so that the carer can have a proper break.
Service can be provided in-home, at day centres, overnight or at hospice care by arrangement with your needs. You can start the conversation with your GP or Oncology team, social worker or carers gateway. Remember, there may be a gap between asking for help and it becoming available.
If you are having difficulty raising the issue or persuading your significant others of the benefits of respite care. The Reflections Support Coordinator may be able to guide you through the process.
Don’t wait until you are on your knees before asking for help.