There is a reason that National Carers Week is placed in the middle of Mental Health Month, that is because when in the carer role, a carer’s personal needs and their own mental health can often be overlooked.
The demands on a carer may be physical, financial and/or emotional.
Informal (ie unpaid) carer supports are a valuable and often overlooked resource for allied health clinicians and COS when supporting a client. A supported carer is a crucial resource for the ongoing support, care and success of our client’s health and wellbeing.
At Recovery Station, we work with both clients and their carers to ensure both have access to the care and support they need. The following case study highlights how our team were able to assist Sharon, the primary carer of our client Jane.
Sharon’s Carer Story
During our client Jane’s* Occupational Therapy Functional Capacity Assessment it was observed that Jane’s mother and primary carer, Sharon appeared to be experiencing a significant amount of carer stress.
It was observed that Sharon* had:
- High levels of exhaustion due to her provision of constant emotional support (including behavioural management) and psychological support to Jane, in addition to constant decision-making and problem-solving to ensure Jane’s safety
- Associated anxiety and worry regarding Jane’s safety and vulnerability when accessing the community without Sharon there for support (eg, school)
- Provision of constant and high levels of prompting and support to Jane to complete all aspects of her daily activities eg, prompting to get out of bed, shower, get dressed etc – Sharon needed to provide Jane with prompting to initiate and complete each step of each task. This may seem small, but providing this level of prompting and support to complete each step of every task, every day can be extremely draining.
- Stress and anxiety regarding what would happen to Jane if Sharon became unwell, both short term unwell and in future (when Sharon ages and is unable to provide the current level of support)
- Financial stress, due to Sharon being unable to work, related to both Jane’s ongoing high level of care needs and Sharon’s own physical health
- Housing stress, due to rising rental costs and housing instability (related to property damage caused by Jane during behavioural escalations, threatening their lease agreement)
- Poor sleep due to both stress and anxiety, and due to Jane requiring overnight support and resettling multiple times per week
The Caregiver Strain Index was completed with Sharon as a part of Jane’s functional capacity assessment. Sharon scored 9 on the index (it should be noted that scores higher than 7 indicate a significant level of carer stress and recommend the provision of additional formal supports to ensure the preservation of the informal carer relationship).
The Occupational Therapy Functional Capacity Assessment report included this assessment result (in addition to other assessments completed). It advocated for the need to provide increased funded carer supports to Jane (via her NDIS plan), to protect the valuable informal caregiver relationship that Sharon provides Jane.
This recommendation was acted on by NDIS and Jane secured additional funding for the provision of regular, formal support workers to assist Jane in engaging in many home and community activities, in addition to day program funding (after school), reducing the strain placed on Sharon while also providing Jane with valuable opportunities to build her social networks and engage in a range of activities of her choice.
Three years later the Caregiver Strain index was repeated with Sharon, this time Sharon scored a 6 on the Caregiver Strain Index, demonstrating how her carer stress has reduced with the long-term provision of formal support. Sharon was happy to report that Jane loved attending her day program and going out with her support workers, and Sharon believed that having access to these formal supports has significantly contributed to her reduced feelings of carer stress.
Additionally, Sharon reported that the increase in NDIS-funded formal support had also assisted in rebuilding her relationship with Jane to become similar to a typical parental relationship with an adult child.
If you are referring a client to Recovery Station and think that their carer may be experiencing carer fatigue, please let us know. We may be able to advocate for and support the carer while also supporting our client. For more information, call us on 1300 588 851.
Until next time,
Side Note: Please note that the information given above is general in nature; please consult your physician or therapist if you have any particular questions.