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Self-care for caregivers – why it’s important


Written by:
Alice Robinson
Senior Associate

Caring for an injured, disabled or vulnerable person is a selfless and all-consuming task. Caregiving is physically and emotionally demanding and as such, carers must have access to support. This respite can provide caregivers with some much-needed time for selfcare so that they can recharge and priorise their own needs.

Avoiding severe caregiver burnout

Caregiving is an ‘around the clock’ task and can include all types of duties, both physical and emotional. This can leave the caregiver with very little time to attend to their own needs, which only compounds their exhaustion. Because of the effort that caregivers put in to support their vulnerable family members or patients, as well as other limiting factors such as financial constraints and competing family needs, carers can sometimes suffer from severe caregiver burnout.

Statistically, the majority of caregivers are female, including mothers of children with disabilities and daughters of elderly or infirm parents. The nurturing role that many female carers can take can be all-encompassing and this can take its toll on the caregiver.

Mothers of children with disabilities have an even greater demand on their time and energy, due to the complex needs associated with their child’s medical condition. Ensuring that a mother has the opportunity for self-care can prevent her from experiencing severe caregiver burnout.

How to help a caregiver

The smallest gesture can make a difference for a caregiver, as they often perform their role without any expectation of assistance or relief. If you’re wondering how to help a caregiver, by far the greatest gift for a caregiver (particularly for a mother with a child or children with disabilities) is time to herself. Having time to herself provides mum with a chance to pursue her hobbies and interests and is a vital break.

There are several other ways that you can help caregivers, these include:

  • Listening to them – make yourself available to listen if they need to vent
  • Bringing food – making a meal for a caregiver can make them feel supported and looked after
  • Asking how you can help – find out from them what they would find most helpful

A good support network is vital for caregivers and this is particularly true for parents who are dealing with sleep deprivation in the early childhood years.

Caregiver support services

Several agencies - such as Carers Australia and Bluecare - provide dedicated support services for caregivers. These agencies provide an invaluable resource, especially for mothers of young children with high care needs. However, like many care support services, the cost can mean that not all caregivers can access the support that they need.

In addition to community-based support, some mothers of children with disabilities can access support services through the NDIS, or through a claims process where they believe there is an entitlement to compensation arising out of medical care.

As a community, we can all play a part to ensure that mothers of high care needs children are cared for and have opportunities for self-care so that they can meet the challenges of their daily life. The smallest gesture can often make an enormous difference.

Written by Alice Robinson. Last modified: September 18, 2020.

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