Carving out time for yourself can seem like adding just another thing on your ever-expanding to-list though, and many struggle with the guilt of wanting a break. However, if you forgo self-care, it’s likely you’ll end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unwell.
While jetting off for a holiday or planning a lavish spa retreat may not be in your foreseeable future, there are small ways in which you can look after yourself while still caring for others.
Set boundaries The first and most important thing to do is to set clear boundaries on your time. This, of course, can be easier said than done, especially if the person you care for is a close family member. They might not understand why you need your own time and can’t be there for them 24/7. Even if you explain the situation, they might not agree with you—remind yourself that you know what’s best for you, and you don’t need to justify your needs.
Schedule in your self-care Scheduling in classes or events you want to participate in can help with keeping your time boundaries in check. If there’s a yoga class you like to get to in order to feel relaxed for the rest of the week, or a coffee date with a friend or time spent clocking up laps in the pool, schedule it in as an appointment. Block out this time so that you have this hour or so devoted to your needs.
It might sound a bit daunting at first but getting some outside help, even once a week, can allow you that hour even to take a walk as well as giving your loved one a fresh face to interact with!
Stay social When you do get time to yourself, you may be feeling tired and stressed, and therefore less than social. However, staying connected with your friends and the community around you is important; it can prevent you from becoming isolated. If you’re unable to meet up in person with a friend, stay in touch by the phone or through social media. You may also want to reach out to fellow carers through specific forums, such as the one on the Carers Australia website.
Delegate To lessen your workload, try to delegate what you can. Being a primary carer is a big responsibility and can be tough to shoulder alone. Can another family member help out with the caring? Perhaps a friend can lend a hand with the washing and ironing? It may be only a small chunk of their day, but it can make all the difference.
Utilise services available Respite care, whether it’s for an hour, a day or a week, can offer you a much-needed reprieve. Don't forget about looking into eligibility for government assistance for home-based care. Organised through My Aged Care, a non-invasive assessment can be done at home to let you know the level of assistance the person is eligible for. Even the lowest level package (Level 1) offers assistance with things like gardening and cleaning to help free up some time.
Be creative with your time Multi-tasking gets a bad rap these days, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to get everything done. During quiet periods of care, pull out that book or magazine you’ve been wanting to read or listen to that podcast you’re interested in. You may even be able to duck out to catch a movie by making use of supervised community centres or social groups—that way the person you care for will be having fun while being looked after while you get a break.
This piece was brought to you by DailyCare.com.au. Everyone’s care needs are different. As we get older, we may need a bit of extra help around the home, or we may need expert care full time. DailyCare helps older Australians, and their families, along the aged care journey with clear descriptions and expert advice about who, why and what you need to know, every step of the way. Click here for more information