Becoming a carer – how to care for your elderly loved one

With Australians living longer, and the proportion of people above retirement age in the country at a record level, there are lots of challenges ahead for our healthcare and aged care systems. What is sometimes overlooked is that the aging population also means more of us will be caring for elderly family members at home in the coming years. You might have recently stepped into the role of carer yourself, looking after a spouse or parent, for instance.

Becoming a carer can be very rewarding. What it often means is that your loved one will be able to live at home for longer but it also brings new challenges. Depending on the needs of your elderly relative, your responsibilities will change.

That could mean anything from an increase in domestic chores through to helping them move around, wash, eat and take medication. You may have to work less and give up time normally spent on leisure interests and social events.

On the other hand, being a carer will bring you closer to your loved one and you will be able to spend valuable time together. Many find this companionship very fulfilling. With your support, they can remain in familiar surroundings, retaining a sense of independence and enjoying many happy times and special occasions with friends and family.

If your loved one is very old or has complex needs because of a medical condition, caring for them may become very demanding. As a carer, you may go through a range of emotions, including feeling isolated, stressed, anxious or depressed. Carers are sometimes so focused on looking after their elderly relative that they forget to look after themselves.

Often, people fail to realise that there are many resources in place to support them as a carer. Financially, the Australian Government offers both a Carer Payment and a Carer Allowance, which you may be eligible for. Other benefits are available too, and more information is available at the My Aged Care website.

In our local area, the Northern Sydney Local Health District offers a range of support to carers. This includes regular events, education services, outings, support groups and much more.

According to our Local Health District, there are five key areas that carers need to consider for their own wellbeing:

  1. Make sure you get enough sleep
  2. Eat healthy and nutritious meals
  3. Stay active
  4. Take regular breaks
  5. Talk about how you feel

You can find out more, and join the district’s carer Facebook page, via the North Sydney Local Health District website.

Twilight Aged Care aims to support carers by initially providing Respite Care in all of our homes. This allows families to have a break knowing their loved one will be well cared for in a small, intimate, home-like environment. Our website, newsletters and Facebook posts also have a range of articles aimed at supporting families within our communities to care for their loved one. Similarly, our flexible work practices and commitment to support staff allows for those who have carer responsibility to find a positive work-life balance between their paid work and carer responsibilities.

As a carer, you really will make a difference to the happiness, wellbeing and health of your elderly relative. However, it’s important not to put too much strain upon yourself in the process. There may come a time when you’ll need help looking after them, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.

According to My Aged Care, your relative may display some signs which indicate that a move to an aged care facility may be the best choice for them. These can include:

  • Significant difficulty moving around
  • Significant incontinence problems
  • Challenging behaviour such as wandering
  • Significant problems communicating
  • Problems thinking, planning and remembering things

More information around caring for an older Australian can be found on the Australian Government Department of Human Services website.

These strategies support our ageing population to be cared for in their homes longer, and if this becomes too much, we are here to support carers and families transition into care with confidence and compassion, acknowledging that this is often a difficult time for families. If you would like to talk to someone about the right care for your elderly loved one, call Twilight care today on 02 9414 4400 – we are happy to provide you with insight and advice.

Sign up to the Twilight Aged Care newsletter and we’ll keep you up to date with all the issues surrounding care for seniors in our communities.