At home

11 minute read
 

As a carer, you help the person you care for with many activities in and around the home. Understanding what you need to do and what help you can get can make your life easier.

Our self-guided coaching sessions can give you skills and information to help you manage day to day.

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As a carer, you may be looking after someone who’s unable to move around independently. As well as juggling all of your day to day tasks, the physical demands of caring can place enormous stress on your body which can lead to exhaustion and injury. So it’s very important to look at some of the things you do on a daily basis and try to find ways to make your job safer and easier.

Firstly, it’s important to manage your time well.

The following ideas may help:

  • Develop a schedule and get into a good routine.
  • f the person you care for has reduced mobility allow plenty of time to get from A to B.
  • Create a safe and secure environment.
  • Look out for hazards such as loose rugs and clutter which may limit movement around the house. Install hand support rails along staircases, near toilets, and in the shower or near a handbasin.
  • Take care when moving objects or the person you care for.

Any injury to you may be very serious and also impact the person you’re caring for, so always remember:

  • Don’t move an object or person if you have a back injury, and only move them if it is absolutely necessary. Let the person you are caring for know where and when you are going to move them, so they can assist as much as possible to take the strain off you.
  • Bend your knees when lifting something or someone from a low position, keep your back upright and stand by straightening your knees.
  • Always seek assistance from a health professional about the use of equipment or moving and handling aids before you use them to prevent injury to yourself and the person you care for.

These are just a few practical ideas on safely providing care. For more tips and advice, please go to carergateway.gov.au or call 1800 422 737.

Making home safe

You can change their home to help the person you care for to move around safely. This can be changes to their home if they are still living there, or to your home if they are living with you.

Changes to the home can increase their independence and reduce the risk of injury. This also helps you by increasing the range of things the person can do for themselves, and by reducing your risk of injury.

Simple changes to the home

Simple changes to the person’s home can include:

  • removing clutter around the house to prevent tripping as they move around
  • installing night lights
  • putting nonslip strips on the edge of stairs
  • keeping all medicines in a locked cabinet
  • installing smoke detectors

Larger changes to the home

Larger changes to the person’s home can include:

  • installing ramps in areas with stairs – you will need ramps if the person you care for uses a wheelchair. They can also be useful for people who can’t manage stairs very well
  • installing rails wherever needed – rails give the person something to hold when they need to, such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of the shower or bath, or getting on and off the toilet
  • widening doorways – you might need to widen doorways if the person you care for uses a wheelchair
  • changing bathrooms and kitchens (for example, lowering bench heights so they can be reached by someone in a wheelchair)
  • moving light switches and power points to be more convenient for you or the person you care for

Getting help with changing the home

You can ask your doctor or occupational therapist about what changes to the home might help you. Changes should be done by a licensed builder or tradesperson.

You may be able to get financial help to change the home.

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Most of your time spent caring is likely to be in the home, so it’s crucial to make it a safe place for all.

Creating a safe environment for you and the person that you care for can be challenging, but taking the time to identify potential risks can reduce the likelihood of a serious accident or injury.

Simple home modifications can be made by you or a service provider to help eliminate hazards, improve accessibility and reduce accidents.

Your requirements may be different and dependent on your specific circumstances, so it’s important to find out what works best for you and the person you care for.

Simple changes you might think about include:

  • removing clutter around the house to prevent tripping as you move around the home, both inside and outside
  • installing night lights for when you have to move about in the dark • keeping all medications in a locked cabinet to prevent easy access
  • installing smoke detectors.

For larger home modifications you may need to contact a service provider. You can use the ‘Find a service tool’ on the Carer Gateway website, which is a database that directs you to your nearest healthcare and general service provider who will be able to help with the modifications.

These may include:

  • installing grab rails near a toilet or hand supports, in the shower or near a handbasin
  • constructing handrails on stairs, or
  • defining the edges of the stairs by using non slip strips.

These are just a few tips that may help you understand how to make your home a safer place. So have a look around the home for ways you can improve safety and reduce potential hazards.

For more information and additional advice, please go to carergateway.gov.au or call 1800 422 737.

Using alarms and monitors

Alarms and monitors can help you by sending information about the person you care for directly to you or others.

What alarms and monitors might help you

Alarms send an alert in an emergency or as a reminder. For example, the person you care for could have:

  • a personal alarm so that they can alert someone if they need help or feel ill
  • a mobile phone alarm to remind them when to take their pills
  • a fall detector to sense if they fall and alert someone

Monitors track someone’s location or health and send information to carers or health professionals. For example, the person you care for may have:

  • a mobile phone app so you can find them if they wander and forget where they are
  • remote monitoring to do health tests such as blood pressure or blood glucose levels and send the results to your doctor
  • a free service from the Red Cross where a volunteer calls at a regular time each day or week to check on a person who needs care

Getting help with alarms and monitors

Talk with your doctor about what might help you and the person you care for. You can also talk with:

You may be able to get financial help with alarms and monitors.

Getting help at home

Home help services can help you and the person you care for with everyday needs.

What help can you get at home

Services include:

  • help with showering, going to the toilet and other personal care
  • cooking, cleaning, gardening or other chores
  • food services, such as delivering cooked meals
  • transport to go shopping, to appointments or to other events
  • minor home maintenance and repairs, such as replacing tap washers
  • nursing care, such as wound dressing
  • other health therapies, such as physiotherapy

How to get help at home

You can get home help from many organisations:

Carers Australia (call 1800 242 636) and My Aged Care (call 1800 200 422) can tell you more about the home help you can get.

Planning and getting help with meals

Eating the right food can help to keep you and the person you care for healthy. You need to make sure the person has food that’s nutritious, that they like, and that they can eat.

How to plan meals

A bit of planning and organisation can be a big help when it comes to eating well. You can:

  • shop online and arrange home delivery for your shopping or for takeaway food
  • buy pre-prepared meals
  • buy staples (food that lasts a long time – for example, canned or frozen vegetables, pasta and rice)
  • cook a large batch of soup, stew or casserole and freeze in individual meal-size portions
  • ask friends, family or a support carer to cook for you

The Eat for health website has more information about healthy eating and meal planning, and Carers NSW offers advice on healthy food for busy people.

Getting help with meals

If you find it hard to shop and prepare food, there are many services that can help you out.

  • Not-for-profit groups such as Meals on Wheels or Australian Red Cross – deliver cooked, chilled or frozen meals to people’s homes. Some groups provide meals for people of particular backgrounds, cultures or religions and can also meet dietary needs such as gluten intolerance. There may be a small fee
  • Commonwealth Home Support Programme – gives basic support for people aged over 65, including help with cooking and advice from a dietitian. Cooked meals may be provided at home or at a community centre. A home support assessment will find out what help you need
  • Home Care Packages – provide services for people aged over 65, which can include help preparing meals, using eating utensils or eating. Help is also available with special diets for health, religious, cultural or other reasons
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – can fund help for people with disability, including planning and cooking meals or getting meals delivered. The scheme also funds training in home care to encourage independence and may pay for products that can help with meal preparation
  • State and territory programs
  • Local government programs – such as Mornington Peninsula Shire’s meals on wheels service
  • Neighbourhood and community centres and churches – often have cafes and restaurants with free or subsidised (cheaper for you) meals

Special diets

People with a medical condition and older people sometimes need to follow a special diet. For example, if the person you care for has:

  • food allergies, they will need a diet that avoids the foods they are allergic to
  • diabetes, they will need a diet based on breads, cereals, vegetables and fruits that is low in fat, salt and sugar
  • kidney disease, they will need a diet low in salt, potassium and protein

You can get advice about special diets from your doctor or a dietician.

Helping with eating

It is important to make sure the person you care for is getting enough nutrition. It is also important to allow them to be as independent as possible during meals.

Food choices that can help with eating

If the person you care for finds it hard to eat or swallow, you might need to prepare foods that are softer or in smaller bites. An occupational therapist can help you figure out the best way to make and serve food and to help the person eat.

If the person you care for can’t eat enough food to get proper nutrition, you may consider using a food supplement. Supplements can help people get the vitamins, minerals and calories they need. Talk with your doctor before you give supplements to the person you care for.

Equipment that can help with eating

If the person finds it hard to eat by themselves, you may need special equipment to make eating easier for them. For example, you could consider:

  • cutlery with built-up handles
  • angled knives
  • a cuff to help the person hold cutlery
  • nonspill cups
  • nonslip plates
  • an adjustable chair so you can position the person to make it easier for them to eat

For more information on eating aids, visit Independent Living Centres Australia or call 1300 885 886.

Moving and lifting people safely

As a carer, you may need to help the person you care for to move around. For example, you may need to move them from a bed to a wheelchair, or in and out of a car.

How to move people safely

It is very important that you learn how to do this properly to prevent injuries, either to yourself or to the person you care for.

You should protect your back, arms and neck when you move the person. Bend your knees when lifting someone from a low position, keep your back upright and stand by straightening your knees.

Tell the person you care for when and where you are going to move them, so they can help as much as possible to take the strain off you.

You will need to decide if you are strong enough to move and lift the person, or if you will need help. You may need to get another person to help.

Don’t move someone if you have a back injury, and only move them if it is necessary.

Getting help with moving people

You can ask your doctor or other health care professional for advice and training on how to move someone. Many carer organisations train carers in how to move and lift people. There is also information available online, such as this guide to techniques for moving and handling people.

You can also get special equipment to help you move and lift someone, such as hoists, stand aids and slide sheets. You might be able to get free or subsidised (cheaper for you) equipment.

Always ask a health professional about how to use equipment to prevent injury to yourself and the person you care for.