Looking after your own wellbeing for your loved one.
Caring for someone living with a lung condition can be physically and emotionally demanding. In the grind of the day-to-day tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of the relationship you once had with your loved one and your sense of self.
Philippa, who cares for her husband, Richard, says one of the greatest challenges is knowing when to step back and allow the person you care for to help themselves.
“That’s particularly difficult when you can see that person struggling. Learning to understand, and most of all respect, the boundaries of help they want to accept is a very narrow line to navigate.”
Despite its challenges, Philippa says helping the man she loves, who lives with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, is incredibly rewarding.
Social worker, Tracie Story, who works with partners and families impacted by chronic health conditions explains that the change in balance of dependence and independence can change so much within the dynamics of a relationship.
“It can be rewarding, frustrating, confusing and joyful all at the same time. People often don’t define themselves as ‘carers’ – they are mothers, wives, husbands, children or partners. But just as people can be overtaken by the role of ‘patient’, people can also lose their identity in that of ‘carer’,” Tracie said.
It can be easy to put the needs of your loved one ahead of your own, however Tracie says unless we look after ourselves, we may become unable to look after those we love.
“Unfortunately, it is a common situation that people keep pushing themselves until they become too stressed to continue supporting their loved one, or perhaps become ill themselves. Remember that it’s ok to look after yourself too,” she said.
“Now I know this is not always easy – sometimes the people we care for or other family members have expectations of us that make it difficult to create a balance, or there are other obstacles that we may need to overcome. That’s why seeking out and accepting help can be the first really
important step and create a more balanced perspective.
“Reach out for professional support, join a carer support group, or use relaxation and mindfulness techniques. You may need to organise for someone to take over caring while you look after yourself. If family or friends aren’t available, it might help to organise a respite service to give you peace of mind.”
Tracie’s top 3 tips for carers
- Put your own mask on first: In an airplane emergency, would you consider this selfish or wise? As a carer, it’s easy to run out of time for yourself, but if you’re not well, you can’t help the other person. Schedule time for yourself to do the things you love.
- Plan ahead: It can be hard to think into the future and have difficult conversations, but planning ahead can help avoid confusion and complications down the track. There are lots of online tools you can use to develop important resources such as an Emergency Care Plan, Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Health Directive.
- Look for and accept support: You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to friends and family and talk about ways they can help you. Don’t let pride or stubbornness get in the way of accepting help. If you don’t want to burden” friends and family, contact a professional services – it’s what we are here for!
Our Information and Support Centre can connect you with resources and support services to help you navigate the challenges of caring for someone living with a lung condition. Free call 1800 654 301 or visit lungfoundation.com.au.