If you have a child with a disability, there is a chance that you may experience a difficult situation in your life: you will find yourself living the life of a double carer. Read on to find out all you need to know in terms of double caring, so should you experience this situation, you’re as prepared as you can possibly be.
What is a “double carer”?
A double carer is a term used to describe a person who is caring for more than one person. In most cases, this term will be used to describe someone who is:
- Providing care and assistance to their own children.
- The same person is also providing care and support to their parents; for example, you are assisting your mum or dad with their own life and health needs.
Thousands of people find themselves in this situation every year; when their caring duties and preferences have to be split across the generations.
People who find themselves in this situation are often referred to as “the sandwich generation”.
Is double caring a full-time role?
This is entirely subjective, and depends very much on your preference, the preferences of your family members, and your financial situation.
Many people perform caring “double duty” as well as their day job. This is sometimes made easier by their parents moving in with them, so that the household comprises of all three generations.
For others, managing the responsibilities of life as a double carer is something they find so consuming that it has to become their full-time occupation. Some families find that this is more feasible, financially, than paying for additional outside carers from their salary.
The decision, however, is entirely up to you– you can be a double carer and hold down a job, or choose to focus solely on the people you are caring for. Everyone has to make that call based on their own circumstances, preferences, and the specific needs of the people they are caring for.
What kind of caring do double carers do?
This, also, varies hugely.
Some double carers have to perform very similar roles for both people they are caring for, such as the preparation of meals or helping to maintain good hygiene. Other double carers find their responsibilities are far more varied, such as helping their own parent with bureaucratic issues and focusing solely on practical issues with their own child.
Essentially, you should consider yourself a double carer if you are helping two members of your family with an aspect of their life. There is no sliding scale or details of who “qualifies” as a double carer– the term is not legally defined. You may be a double carer because you are literally caring for the physical health of your child and your parent, and they are dependant on you almost entirely. Or, you may just be providing detailed healthcare to your own child, while assisting your parent with tasks such as financial management and assisting with their well-being on a regular basis.
What are the challenges that double carers face?
If you find yourself in a situation where you are providing care to two or more family members, then you may find yourself struggling with a number of issues.
- Lack of time. Many double carers feel that they don’t quite have the time to negotiate both of the caring roles expected of them, so they feel as if they are “short changing” one or both parties.
- Lack of time for themselves. As well as performing their care duties, double carers have to try and take care of themselves— their own needs, wants, and preferences are still important. When so much of their time is consumed by caring for others, self care can become difficult to achieve.
- Financial challenges. Many people who are providing double care will struggle to manage financially– this can be true whether you have left your job or not. If you are caring for someone, the management of healthcare costs may fall to you alone. You may find yourself struggling to manage the standardized plans your parents need to improve their Medicare coverage as well as having to find, and pay for, suitable insurance for your child. Many double carers find this strain overwhelming, and may find their own savings are required to manage difficult situations.
- Loneliness. Many people who care for two or more relatives struggle with loneliness, or feeling like they are having to negotiate their substantial responsibilities alone.
- Exhaustion. The exhaustion that double carers experience can be very literal and physical — tiredness from not getting enough sleep, for example — but also emotional. Constantly having to assist people you care about with basic life requirements can be mentally and emotionally draining.
- Healthcare knowledge. Few family carers have a background in healthcare or nursing, yet they will suddenly find themselves having to struggle to cope with diverse healthcare situations for both of their family members.
There’s no doubt about it: double carers are truly incredible people. However, they are also people, which means that responses and feelings such as the above are entirely justified.
What can assist double carers?
If you find yourself battling the issues above, then there are a few solutions you may want to consider:
- Read through this post for a few helpful carer essentials to keep in mind.
- Split duties with another person/people.
- Talk to a counselor to ensure you are coping on a mental and emotional level.
- See a financial advisor for financial help.
- Ask your local authority or charities for advice on respite care that may allow you to have some time to yourself.
- Join an online forum or Facebook group dedicated to providing support for carers.
- Contact your local government office regarding Disability Assistance for the people you care for so as to help ease financial stresses.
- Finally — and most importantly — don’t expect yourself to be a hero. Many double carers put a huge amount of pressure on themselves to cope under the strain of double caring, but it’s entirely natural if you struggle.
Life as a double carer can be challenging, but if you find yourself in this situation, the above should help ensure you navigate the situation in the best way possible.