Caring for an older adult
Caring for older adults can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. The role of a carer comes with many new responsibilities.
Many of us begin caring for an older adult gradually through increased visits, extra meals, or taking them to appointments. Sometimes, becoming a carer comes suddenly with no warning after a crisis or major health event. However it happens, carers often need to reorganise their lives to take on new information, roles and responsibilities.
Caring for yourself
Being a carer can be both rewarding and challenging, but there are things that you can do to make life easier for both yourself and the person you are caring for. Monash Health’s Head of Occupational Therapy, Alison Smith emphasises that self-care is really important for any carer.
“It’s like putting on the oxygen mask in a plane on yourself before helping others. Making sure you have a network of supporters is also really important. If you don’t have family and friends, or your situation is tricky, it’s okay to ask for help from agencies who specialise in this field,” says Alison.
For more information on ways to look after yourself whilst caring for another, see here.
Caring for an older adult
Depending on your loved one’s health, tasks involved in caring for an older adult can range from helping with day-to-day activities such as bathing, dressing, feeding, managing medications and/or providing transport, to taking on responsibilities such as shopping and paying the bills. Another important role is to provide emotional support by being someone they can talk to.
My Aged Care suggests a few tips to assist you and your loved one with these responsibilities:
- To allow your loved one to move around freely and safely in his/her home, arrange furniture so that the environment is uncluttered, and remove loose rugs and seal carpet edges that may be trip hazards.
- If the person you care for needs to be lifted, ask an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or community nurse to help you work out the safest way to lift or transfer the person you care for.
- Develop an emergency care plan to assist you in providing alternative care arrangements if you suddenly become ill or have an accident.
For more information on caring for an older adult see here.
> Getting support
There are a number of support agencies to assist you and your loved one throughout the process of providing care. These include:
- Your general practitioner (GP)
- Your local healthcare provider
- Your local council
- Organisations that provide social services
Sometimes a GP may recommend you contact an allied health professional. This might be an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech pathologist, dietitian, podiatrist, music therapist or social worker.
Monash Health has an experienced team of allied health professionals trained in providing care to older adults. These professionals have expertise which can make life more manageable for both you and the person you are supporting. They can provide advice about safety issues, general life activities, staying mobile and active, coping with emotions as things change, making the home safer, and keeping socially engaged and participating in the community.
> Monash Health aged care services
Monash Health provides an extensive range of services aimed at providing support to carers and the person they are caring for, to assist in maintaining independence and quality of life for older adults.
Some of these services include:
- Hospital-based (acute and subacute) care
- Community-based care
- Residential care
- Respite care
- Nursing care
- Help at home, including housekeeping, shopping and meal preparation
- Personal care
- Health care to improve strength and independence
If you would like more information about the services Monash Health can provide, please call us on 1300 3 iCARE (select option 4).
Things to look out for: Elder abuse
Seniors Rights Victoria defines elder abuse as any act which harms an older person and is carried out by someone they trust. This can be a family member, carer or friend, and can be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual.
Although rarely discussed openly, the sexual abuse of older people is an important concern. Research highlights the importance of protecting and supporting such a vulnerable group, both in residential care and in the community at large.
Sexual assault on an adult includes any behaviour of a sexual nature which is non-consensual or makes the victim feel uncomfortable or afraid. As a carer, there are a number of signs you can look out for. These include (but are not limited to):
- Bruising or trauma of breasts, genitals, thighs or rectal area
- Abdominal pain and/or migraines
- Fear of, or paying an unusual amount of attention to, a particular person or place
- Fear of using the bathroom, fear of medical procedures around the genital area and/or fear of disrobing
- Sudden increase in destructive behaviours
- Social isolation or withdrawal
For more information about elder abuse and to seek support for you or someone you know, call the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence (SECASA) crisis line on 03 9594 2289 (24 hours) or visit www.secasa.com.au.
For confidential advice and support with a situation you believe may constitute elder abuse, you can contact Senior Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821.