Caring for yourself too!

At some stage in our lives, most of us will take on a carer role.  For some, this may mean looking after our children’s needs as they grow, or looking after family members during periods of acute illness or injury.  More often than not, as soon as the person recovers or is old enough, that need for care is no longer required.  For some people, however, circumstances result in that carer role enduring for the long term.

A carer provides support and unpaid care to someone who has a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, alcohol or drug addiction or are frail aged (Carers Australia Website). The person they care for is usually a family member, but may also be a friend or neighbour.  Within Australia, there are 2.7 million unpaid carers (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).

Being a carer for someone requires not only being there to provide emotional support, but also at times, much needed physical support.  In the early stages of an illness, this physical support may mean providing prompts and instruction on how to break down a movement sequence so that the person can complete the task on their own.  As things progress in the later stages of the illness, a person may need help with daily activities such as getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, showering and moving about in their home and the community.

When a family carer takes on the responsibility of looking after their loved one, they often take upon themselves a very physical role, one that is filled with many challenges and risks.  If the person was looked after by professional care staff in the healthcare industry, that staff would have been provided with careful instruction and training to be able to perform the required care tasks and would have all the required equipment available.  On the contrary, family carers provide the same physical support, often unassisted, with little or no equipment and often no training on how to do things safely.

Current research highlights the need for a carer looking after someone with high physical demands to be provided with physical support and training in addition to the much needed emotional support.

Research conducted by the Australian Institute of Family studies looked at the impact that caring for a family member with a disability had on the carer.  This study found that there were nearly twice as many carers reporting poor physical health compared with the general population.  This poor health was associated with looking after a family member with high care needs.

Another study conducted by the Independent Living Centre (ILC) of Western Australia, in conjunction with the Office for Seniors Interests and Volunteering, looked specifically at the physical impact that caring for a family member had on carers.  They found that nearly half of the carers that took part in the study had been physically injured when caring for their family member, and most times this injury was a back injury.  They also found that these injuries also then impacted on the carer’s ability to keep providing care.  In addition, over half the carers had never had training on how to reduce the risks involved in physically looking after their family member.  As part of this study, they also ran a manual handling training project.  They found that there were significant benefits to providing the carers with training on safer ways to move and assist the person they were caring for, including improvement in the carer’s physical condition.

Here are a couple of recommendations for carers to take into consideration so that they can keep the cycle of care going:

  • Stay in touch with your GP – Make sure you make time to get yourself seen to if you are unwell, stressed or injured.  You can only help others if you are well yourself.
  • Take some time to exercise – staying physically fit and healthy will help you to keep caring.  Something as simple as going for regular walks can help both mind and body.
  • Get training and support – if the help you need to give is increasing, make sure you have some training to make it easier and safer for you to provide care, and so that you know how to use equipment if you need to.


Secure Moves will be presenting a workshop aimed at Manual Handling for Carers at the Parkinson’s Victoria Living Well Seminar in September.  Click here for more information and to register.

If you are interested in our new Carer workshops,  contact Judy at Secure Moves today.




Carers Australia Website,

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2012

Australian Institute of Family Studies, The nature and impact of caring for family members with a disability in Australia, Research report No. 16., 2008

Independent Living Centre of WA (Inc) and Office of Seniors Interests and Volunteering, Family Carers and the Physical Impact of Caring – Injury and Prevention Research Report, October 2006

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