Life Changes In A Blink - Caring For A Partner With Health Challenges
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
When Life Changes In A Blink Of An Eye...
Whether a pedestrian, motorist, sportsperson, holidaymaker, home renovator, or someone receiving a medical test result - life can change in a blink of an eye.
As a care consultant for more than 35 years, I have experienced the dramatic impact of those changes on partners who find their loved one is suddenly disabled and, that on hospital discharge, they are now their loved one's primary carer.
While immediate responses to these situations differ, in my time I have observed that some measures taken early on, can help carers better cope with the situation in the longer term.
Speak to your boss
In those initial months of an accident or diagnosis, you will need to take time off work to organise what will take place after hospital discharge, but also to give you time to process the shock of the new circumstances.
My advice is to fully disclose the situation with your boss and keep them informed throughout your journey. You will need their understanding and support.
If you work for yourself, seek the support of your team and clients, and move quickly to organise quality care.
Do not give up work
If you give up work entirely, you risk damaging your mental health by taking on the all-consuming role of full-time carer.
Your work will be your foundation of "normality", another point of focus, contact with others outside the care circle - in summary, your work will give you a sense of self.
Consider speaking with your boss about working a four, three or two day week, but don't give it up.
The emotional tsunami of the sudden changes cannot be overstated. I highly recommend seeking the help of a professional counsellor early on and consider counselling as a life-long support.
Feelings of guilt will arise throughout your journey and I encourage you to read my prior blog on overcoming these feelings: 'Overcoming The Guilt Felt As A Carer'.
Outsource the case management
You may need a team of more than five carers to provide in-home daily care seven days a week. While you may want to advertise for and recruit your own team of carers, and train them on your partner's care requirements, their likes and dislikes, this is a big undertaking. In the care sector, the process is called 'case management'.
Given that it can take two to three years to establish the right care team, I recommend calling on the expertise of a care consultant, like myself, to find a suitable case manager or find a reputable care service provider that has qualified case managers on staff.
Be supported by professional advisers
A good lawyer, accountant and financial adviser will help you with advice on planning for the future and the paperwork in obtaining government subsidies. Have the financial conversations with your professional advisers early on and this will reduce your anxiety on that front.
Build a support group
You will need to spread the load. While everyone is busy, I recommend speaking with family members, friends, neighbours and volunteers about whether they would be prepared to support you in times of emergency or visit your loved one for social interaction on a regular basis.
The visits may be once a month or once every six months - simply try and schedule some regular social visitors in the household calendar. The building of a carer support team is one of my four practical steps for new carers shared a recent blog, 'Four Practical Steps For New Carers'.
Reach out to associations
Undertake some research on associations or government agencies that may provide support you for your partner's particular disability or illness. Use their helpline and resource materials, and become a member of their forums. In that journey you are likely to meet supportive fellow carers.
Draw the line in the sand
As a carer, at some stage you will need to establish with your loved one the point at which you can no longer care for them in the home. For example, you may both agree that when your partner is no longer able to transfer themselves, on their own, from bed to wheelchair, your partner will move to supported disability accommodation or into residential aged care.
Get some advice now
You're not alone. If you need help with challenges arising from caring for a partner with special needs, please feel free to call or email me, Danielle Robertson, for a no obligation, complimentary discussion.