Carers open up on ‘huge emotional cost’ of looking after sick, elderly relatives

Social worker Bonney Dietrich told the Aged Care Royal Commission, being a carer can be incredibly stressful and exhausting. Source: Getty

While caring for a loved one personally may seem like the perfect idea to ensure they are well looked after a social worker has claimed it does take it’s toll and said there are times when you are so tired you just want to cry.

Speaking before the Aged Care Royal Commission in Mildura, Victoria on Tuesday Bonney Dietrich said taking on a full carer role can be exhausting and incredibly stressful as you watch your loved one slowly fade away.

Drawing on her own experiences in helping to care for her grandmother before she passed and now her 85-year-old mother, Dietrich admitted she doesn’t want her own daughter to face that pressure, especially when there is limited support available for carers and said sometimes “it’s just really hard”.

“Nan lives with mum for about 12 years and I did a lot of the respite for her so mum could go away and do things and I think maybe now that’s why I get tired and I don’t want Erin [daughter] to have to do that,” she told the royal commission.

“You want to cry. There are days when you just feel so tired. I know that when mum does die I will be devastated but there’s some days where you just go, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, I just want to stay home’.”

When asked about the stress endured as a carer, Dietrich said “it’s a real issue” as many have to give up their prime careers and shift from being a relative to caring for their loved one on a full-time basis.

“Some of it can be that they actually have to give up employment to do what they want to do so they’re actually coping with the anger of doing that and the frustration of doing the caring role and it actually takes it away from the relationship role,” she explained. “So they become the carer not the partner and it becomes difficult for a lot of people.”

Dietrich added: “There’s limited counselling. Once again there’s funding, so you’re trying to find out where you can go to get support for the carers which I think, once again, it’s important for people to be able to come in and talk to someone.”

As a fellow carer and support person for others in his position Donald Laity agreed with Dietrich that the emotional effects of caring for a loved one can be terrible and only add to the pressure of the role.

Also speaking before the royal commission, Laity said stress has a huge emotional cost to the carer, building up slowly and then quietly dragging them down.

“They go through a sense of grief, a sense of loss, frustration and even failure at recognising their inability to achieve anything for the person that they’re caring for, that they can’t cure or restore the health or the normality of the person for whom they are caring,” he explained.

“And this in itself is a huge frustration and a huge source of stress for the carer when they see so much work being put in and so little frequently achieved as a result of that work.”

Do you care for a loved one? Has it taken a toll on you? How do you manage the stress of being a carer?

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