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Making the transition from partner to carer

Tips for looking after your loved ones start with keeping your sense of humour.

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  • Health
  • Read Time: 5 mins

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Do you volunteer or work with volunteers in the aged care sector? If so, the government wants to hear from you.

As part of its response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the Department of Health is seeking the views of people who volunteer in the aged care sector, and people who work with volunteers in their role as volunteer managers or as an aged care provider.

The deadline for the survey is 26 May 2023. You can complete it online or call 1800 318 209 to do it over the phone.

With age comes a change in the roles we play in life — and those changes can be difficult to navigate.

For Linda, 75, who has been married to Allan, 78, for almost 60 years, it’s meant the addition of another role she wouldn’t have foreseen in their earlier years. She is now her husband’s carer, as well as his wife.

To say that transition adds pressure and stress to a relationship is an understatement.

When Allan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago, Linda had to begin managing his life: watching out for him, keeping track of his appointments and making decisions on his behalf — all while seeing her life partner forget who he is.

Laughter is the best medicine

Linda told HelloCare that the best way for her to cope was to maintain normalcy and a good sense of humour.

“I had to make the difficult decision of stopping him from driving and he is still convinced that a lady had taken his licence and won’t give it back to him,” she said.

It was something they later laughed about -- but circumstances changed when Allan assaulted Linda in their Adelaide home last October, mistaking her for an intruder.

After that, Linda made another difficult decision and put her husband into a residential aged-care facility.

When she found that his life largely involved sitting in his room doing nothing, she decided to volunteer at the facility so they could remain close, and Allan’s mind would stay active.

“I thought as long as I can go down there and do stuff like play bingo and he’s allowed to come with me, it would be good,” she said.

Support services

The federal government provides financial and practical support for carers, and offers advice, including an online skills course through the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737, Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm in your local time zone.

If you are a carer, you may be able to get payments from the Australian Government.

You may also be eligible for concessions that make many things cheaper for you and the person you care for and be able to access respite care for yourself to take a break, or in the case of an emergency.

Carer Gateway provides free counselling to carers. Three types of counselling options are available: 

  • In-person one-on-one counselling. 

  • In-person group counselling. 

  • Phone counselling.

If you are distressed and need immediate support, call one of the following 24-hour crisis support services: 

Linda’s advice

Linda told HelloCare that the key to coping as a carer is keeping your cool. 

“When someone asks you the same question five times in five minutes, that’s when it can be quite stressful, but try not to get too angry because it’s not their fault,” she said.

She also spoke to other carers and remained engaged with her own social circle to stay active and feel supported.

Further reading: HelloCare, Carer Gateway 

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