An elderly couple standing on the beach, hugging

While society praises the selfless who dedicate their lives to caring for others, seniors who take on the role of caring for their partners often go unnoticed. There are thousands of ‘unofficial’ full-time, older carers around Australia who, like you, are looking after the complex needs of their partner while often neglecting their own wellbeing.

In a perfect world, older Australians would live at home being well supported by a network of family, friends and carers – while also having access to a variety of quality carer options. However, the reality is that the bulk of the caring responsibility usually falls on the more capable partner.

However, with the support of individual and flexible care options, such as those offered by Feros Care, some carers like Ron Jennings are bucking the trend. While Ron recognised the need for him to move into residential care with his partner to meet her specialist dementia care needs, it wasn’t to be a permanent move for him.

With his wife Ruth receiving suitable care, Ron found that he could finally start looking after himself after ten years as Ruth’s sole carer. Not one to let age define him, Ron began to spend a bit more time pursuing his own interests. This meant that when Ruth did sadly pass away two years later, Ron still had strong social connections and a number of hobbies to keep him active. In fact, Ron chose to embrace his new life circumstances by initially moving into a lower care community village run by Feros Care, before building his confidence and transitioning back to independent living in his own home.

The key for Ron was getting the support he needed as a carer, while also recognising the value in looking after himself. So remember that carving out time for self-care is vital to maintain your own vitality, identity, fitness and independence.

You are not alone

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report revealed:

• 76% of older primary carers over 65 were the partner or spouse of the main person they cared for.

• There were an estimated 618,000 older carers in Australia in 2015.

• 44% reported that the recipient of their care did not have a fall-back informal carer.

• 41% have been the primary carer for 10 years or more.

• 19% of older carers reported feeling worried or depressed due to their caring role.

Self-care tips for carers

As the pressure of your carer role increases, so does the need to find a balance between your responsibilities and your own needs. Dependent partners often feel that they are a burden and they can be relieved to see their partners taking time out for themselves. So understand your own limits and take advantage of carer support services, such as short term respite care. By booking your partner into Feros Care Respite Care, they will benefit from a change of scenery and expert care, while you recharge your batteries.

Here are some tips to help manage your carer role and enjoy life:

Take yourself out on a date

Seek out a calm place to visit, or take up an activity to help escape your everyday demands. Council libraries often hold regular free talks and workshops for seniors on everything from using Facebook, to researching your family history.

Be the one who initiates

Stay active by starting a regular ‘walk and talk’ group with older neighbours or friends.

Other carers understand 

Build relationships with other carers in your community, so you can meet regularly to share tips and help each other navigate the carer journey.

Stay connected

Maintain old friendships and foster new ones to prevent yourself from becoming socially isolated now, or in the future, when you could potentially be living on your own.

Me time is important

Make time for the small things that make you feel good. Book a massage or a haircut. Visit the local library or art gallery. Or if you can’t leave the house, find a hairdresser who does home visits or invite friends to visit you for coffee. 

Respite care to the rescue

Book your partner into respite care and take a few days to visit children or grandchildren interstate. Take a fishing trip with the boys or plan a girl’s only weekend.

Sit back and relax 

Learn how to download talking books and podcasts to help you relax and escape into another world, without leaving home.

Remember that looking after yourself is just as important as looking after your partner. So discover into the benefits of Feros Care Respite Care services and commit to doing one thing every week which adds value and meaning to your life.

For more information, visit feroscare.com.au/home-care/carer-support.

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