Many people don’t see themselves as carers. They are just children, parents, partners, relatives or friends who care for someone close to them. So what exactly is a carer?
Carers are people who look after someone who needs help with their day-to-day living according to Carer Gateway. This can include caring for someone with a disability, medical condition (terminal or chronic illness), mental illness or is frail and aged. You are not considered to be a carer if you are employed to look after someone, if you work as a volunteer or if you are doing work experience as part of a course.
There are more than 2.65 million carers in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which means about 1 in 11 people in Australia are carers.
Louise Moulang (pictured below) works as a counsellor for Carer Gateway at The Benevolent Society, supporting clients in the Illawarra region and Greater Sydney.
She describes her role as ‘caring for the people who do the caring’. One of the main reasons why a carer may want to reach out is that the more stress that they experience, the more diminished they feel and the less capacity they have to keep going.
Louise describes the caring role as a long-term endurance test that is often unplanned for. “Many people who enter this role do so without the ability to plan for it, as they often do not know they will be a carer beforehand,” she says. “New carers try to cope and snowball into a cycle that is time and energy intensive as they attempt to manage all this independently.
“As a result, people often become overwhelmed and become isolated. They no longer have anyone to bounce ideas off, share their story with or turn to for advice. This isolation breeds doubt and reduces their natural confidence and courage.”
Louise’s clients range in age from young carers under 18 to mature-aged carers in their 90s. From life stresses, whether it’s emotional, financial, physical or family-related to confidence issues, burning out as a carer can negatively impact a carer’s ability to fulfill the caring role.
“I see a carer’s capacity as a cup,” Louise says. “Once all the liquid is gone, there is nothing left to pour and a carer is burnt out.”
A lovely selfie of Louise smiling
Caring for Carers
Avoiding burnout and maintaining a carer’s health and wellbeing is vital to ensure they’re able to fulfill their capacity as a carer.
If you are a carer, you can get help and support from Carer Gateway. When a carer reaches out to Carer Gateway at The Benevolent Society, they will have an in-depth conversation with the client support partner to identify together what support the carer needs and how the Carer Gateway can help.
Key areas are identified for support that they may need to fulfill their caring role. One set of questions during intake focuses on their mental health and wellbeing, after which a referral is made to counsellors if necessary.
This is when Louise and our team of counsellors come in. They have specialised knowledge to support carers in their caring role. During these counselling sessions, they’ll investigate a carer’s feelings and discuss ways to improve how they’re feeling.
Throughout the six sessions, Louise and the carer work through strategies and practices to ensure that change can start to happen. She ensures that changes are manageable, realistic and sustainable.
Each session ends with an actionable point and throughout the sessions a profile of support providers, peer support, community groups and so on are established so that the carer can engage them after counselling is completed.
Seeds of hope
Developing a therapeutic alliance between the carer and the counsellor is all about relationship building. “Trust is built through reassurance, confidentiality and listening,” Louise says.
People will often talk to Louise about things that they won’t reveal to other people because she understands the unique concerns that come with the caring role.
Louise describes counselling as the start of a self-care journey for the carer in question and that she helps ‘plant small seeds of hope for carers.’
For more information on The Benevolent Society’s Carer Gateway program, click here or call 1800 422 737.