Being a carer can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming, but it can also be immensely rewarding. Whether you look after someone for a few hours a week or full time, you play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of the person you care for, and it’s just as important to look after yourself too.
The first step may be to recognise that you are now a ‘carer’ - for many people this is a painful process. There is a variety of help and support available to you as a carer, and practical strategies you can use every day.
There is a large amount of information and education available online about understanding dementia and the specific condition that the person you care for has been diagnosed with.
Some of these sources include:
You and the person you care for may be eligible for a range of government-subsidised services such as:
The Australian Government’s Carer Gateway makes it easier for carers to access advice, information and connect with services in their local area. Call the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 or visit their website
Benefits and entitlements
The Australian Government provides a number of payments and allowances to eligible carers. Contact Centrelink on 132 717 or visit the Department of Health & Human Services website to read about available benefits and eligibility requirements.
If you, or the person you care for, needs the help of a solicitor for an Enduring Power of Attorney or a Will, contact the Public Trustee of Queensland on 1300 360 044 or visit the Public Trustee website
It’s important to take regular breaks and maintain an active life by visiting friends and having hobbies. If you find it difficult to do this, home and day respite care services can assist by looking after the person you care for while you are taking some time out, doing chores, or even going to work.
There are a number of face-to-face and online social and support groups for carers available in Queensland. Read more about support groups.
It’s easy to forget about your own health when you’re looking after someone else, but keeping active and maintaining your health also benefits the person you care for.
In our section for people living with dementia, we suggest a number of small adjustments that can be made to a home to aid a person’s memory. If the person you care for has started to have problems operating appliances or stay safe in their home, there are a number of additional things you can consider, keeping in mind that a familiar environment is essential for people living with dementia and changes should be subtly introduced.
An occupational therapist can help you to assess your home and suggest changes and equipment that might be of benefit to the person you care for, and you may be eligible for government subsidies for the service.
Communication is something we often take for granted. Losing the ability to communicate can be one of the most frustrating and difficult problems for people with dementia and their families and friends.
Every person with dementia has a unique experience with the condition and difficulties experienced with communicating thoughts and feelings can be different for each individual, and may even change day to day.
Communication problems for the person living with dementia may include:
It is important to check if a person’s communication problems are due to impaired vision or hearing. Having regular eye and hearing checks will help with this. If the person already has hearing aids or glasses, check them regularly to make sure they are functioning correctly and glasses are clean.
Tips for communication:
Ozcare's dementia advisors have created a booklet called Practical Tips for Communication and Social Events booklet for you to download, print, and use as you need.
A person living with dementia can experience a number of memory, behaviour, movement, and language symptoms which can change day to day, or even during the day. This includes changes to behaviour which can sometimes be challenging.
It’s important to remember that behaviour is a form of communication, and behaviour changes can be caused by symptoms, the person’s environment, or being unwell from a virus or other condition.
Knowing the particular reasons or triggers for a person to display unusual behaviour will help you and the person you care for to understand what is happening.
Causes of behaviour change
Always discuss concerns about behaviour changes with your doctor, who will be able to check whether there is an underlying condition, such as:
Minimising the distress of behaviour changes
Ozcare's dementia advisors have created a booklet called Understanding and Responding to Changes in Behaviour for you to download, print, and use as you need.
Depending on the symptoms that are currently being experienced, your day might be currently very full or feel lacking in activity. When planning your day, there are four key activities that you can consider and add to your schedule.
Everyone needs to have purpose, whether it be helping others, completing tasks, or being able to use our best skills and abilities. All of these things will help the person living with dementia feel valued and useful. You can sit together to make a list of suitable activities that can done independently and add these to your routine.
Self-care and rest
It is important that the person living with dementia stays independent for as long as possible, and you can assist them to do this supporting them to complete self-care tasks independently, where possible. This includes their morning routine, doing the weekly shopping, managing bills, and cooking meals.
The best leisure activities for a person living with dementia will come from their life long interests such as swimming or dancing. When planning things to do during the day, talk to the person and consider all the things they enjoy doing.
If you would like some ideas of new things you can do, consider:
If you like to travel, Ozcare's dementia advisors have created a booklet called Road Trips With Dementia in Mind for you to download, print, and use as you need.
Your story begins from the day you were born. Recording a person's journey through life can be fun activity and reminiscing can continue in future generations. The distant past can be, at times, more current for the person living with dementia and reminiscing about their life history can encourage them to sit, talk, and share happy moments.
Put together a life story book by collecting old photos, letters, postcards, newspaper cuttings, and other memorabilia into a presentation book.
Include photos of when they were children, of family and friends, and special events in their life that might trigger happy memories such as their wedding day, the birth of a child or grandchild, or holidays. Add a short narrative under each photo that you write together.
Ask family and friends to contribute to the story and add photos and memorabilia they would like to share.
Depending on what the person would like, you can create the life story book as a group with friends and family or just the two of you.
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