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Caring for a spouse at home

Last Updated at August 13th 2021
CONSUMER STORY - As a married couple, you take the vow to stand by each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and for some couples, these vows, said as promises for what the future may hold, become a reality in later life.
Older couple at home
Stepping up to be someone's main carer can be a really intense transition from what your previous relationship was. [Source: Shutterstock]

These vows and commitment were made by Phil and Sue 37 years ago and they are now one of the many couples across the nation who have found themselves caring for a spouse.

Phil’s carer journey began around five years ago, when he stepped into the role of full time carer for Sue at home following his decision to retire.

“I had been caring for Sue while I was still working, calling her during the day to make sure she had taken her medication, that she was up and ok,” Phil explains.

“When I retired, her health deteriorated and so I began caring for her in a full time capacity and began looking into what care and carer support was available to us.

“For me, I found the adjustment fairly intense - it really was a process of change.

“Keeping the two of us together was and is a major concern and consideration, and that’s why we like home care.

“It is also a more relaxing way of care because you know your surroundings.”

Having cared for Sue’s mum in the past, and with some background in the Government’s disability sector during his working life, Phil felt he had a good grasp on where to start in the search for support for himself and his wife, but says the journey was still a challenge at times.

“I basically focused on reconnecting with old contacts within the State’s carer support network and began down that path,” Phil says.

“I also used the front of the phone book a lot too, and found that our local council was a good place to go for some community pick up services, community programs to have time out, and some maintenance and cleaning support around the house - even getting someone to sit with Sue for a bit if I needed to go out. It was short-term, but it helped until we discovered we could get help through aged care providers when we were allocated a package.

“We really just needed some help to keep the place tidy and manage medications but a lot of the initial work in setting this all up was chasing and putting myself out there and picking up the phone a lot.”

As a full time carer for Sue, Phil says maintaining individual interests and being mindful of each other is a must to keep their situation manageable.

“We do face some challenges to manage both our appointments, commitments and lives because we both still do have our own outlets and appointments so we both get some breaks from caring,” he says.

“I attend support groups and forums and conferences that could be beneficial to us, and Sue has some social outings and has just started up in a choir - which she really enjoys.”

Despite the challenges his role of full time carer is, both he and Sue are grateful to be able to remain living together with support in their own home.

“I think it is important to stay in your own home if you are able to, and to utilise the services available,” Sue explains.

“I enjoy being able to stay here at home with Phil.”

Phil says for anyone else currently caring for, or who could soon be caring for, a spouse at home there are a few things to think about to make the journey easier.

“You may think you know where to go when the time comes, but when you are in turmoil it can be hard to keep calm and contact the right people and get the right help,” Phil says.

“You need to get the help before it becomes a problem, where possible, but we recognise that it is hard for some people.

“Get on Google, or like me, get to the phone book and use your local resources to find support.

“There are some unique local services out there that are available to you that are a great help - I would encourage more people to be aware of the services that are there.”

When did you decide to start getting extra assistance to run alongside your caring role? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Informal home care from family and friends
When should I consider help at home?
Options while waiting for a Home Care Package

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