• People just like you: Joan’s story – self-care is important for carers image

People just like you: Joan’s story – self-care is important for carers

Sometimes, carers need a break, and there is nothing wrong with that. Finding ways to top up your reserves, through a well-deserved break, is actually a vital part of self-care. However, giving yourself permission to have a break can be difficult for many, especially when they are the only carer for the person they care for.

Joan and her partner Robert spent over three decades building a life together in Canberra. They had weathered the storms of life, even as health issues began to cast a shadow over their golden years. Then, at 73 years old, Joan became a full-time carer for Robert, who lives with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Their love remains strong, but their challenges are undeniable.

As they navigated this journey together, Joan, the ever-practical one, has become a firm believer in the importance of having a break. She’s learnt over the years that the role of a full-time unpaid carer, while filled with love and dedication, can also be exhausting.

We sat down with Joan and asked her to share her experiences and wisdom with other carers in the ACT. “You can’t run on empty; it’s important to get topped up,” Joan told us. She understands that to be the best carer for Robert, she needs to take care of herself too.

To help maintain her wellbeing, Joan often uses the respite programs run by Carers ACT, and recommends them to anyone who is undertaking a caring role at home. “The days that I drop him off at the respite centre,” Joan said, “I feel a lightness. It’s a psychological freedom. Because even when you’re doing nothing with the person you are caring for, you’re still a carer, and that changes how you perceive everything, even though, for me, my caring role is not physically taxing.”

Joan encourages other carers who might be hesitant about seeking respite, to “just do it.” She knows that the rest provided by these programs can be like a refuelling station for carers, a chance to recharge and fill up their emotional and physical tanks.

Carers ACT has been more than just a place for Robert to visit. For Joan, Carers ACT has been a place for her as well, somewhere she has been able to connect with support, with other carers who get what she is going through, and with resources that assist her on a day-to-day basis. She particularly values the retreats. “What’s really valuable in those retreats is to sit and talk,” Joan said. “You can say things that only other carers understand. Others might find it uncomfortable, but other carers get it. There’s a real camaraderie with fellow carers because everybody gets it.”

With her story, Joan hopes to reach other carers who might be feeling overwhelmed, yet hesitant to take a break. She wants them to know that it was okay to seek help, to take time for themselves, and to replenish their emotional reservoirs.

Joan and Robert’s journey is a testament to the importance of self-care for carers, a reminder that getting a “top-up” in the tank is not selfish but necessary for providing the best care for their loved ones. Joan’s message is clear: just do it; the support is there, and you don’t have to go it alone.

Find out more about our Cottage Respite programs HERE.

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