2.7 million Australians are unpaid carers, looking after a loved one with a disability or long term illness. Carers Australia launched a report that values this informal care at $60.3b. That is how much it would cost the health care system to provide replacements if family members dropped the reins.
As you can imagine, this kind of intensive caring takes it toll: carers have a lower level of wellbeing, are 40% more likely to experience a chronic health issue, and are prone to anxiety and depression. How do you care for someone else if your own health is suffering?
Thrive Support Group for Carers has been helping carers since 2011. They noticed that even though carers were being told they should take care of themselves, the reality is they don’t. Carers so want their child with autism, or a husband with Parkinsons to have the best care, that they will put their own lives on hold to be there for them.
Thrive asked us to design a Yoga for Carers program to help carers care for themselves, while caring for others. The project launched during National Carers Week thanks to a grant from Lotterywest and National Disability Services, plus in-kind support from a great team of volunteers and Communicare.
We are following the same research and design process used to develop Yoga for Mental Health Recovery to ensure the program offers just what carers need. While yoga is perfect for helping carers with stress, and reducing the likelihood of injury from activities like lifting a child out of bed, there are many barriers that need to be taken into account to ensure a long-lasting, positive impact.
Most carers are on a low income; many are single parents; sleepless nights and stress make planning ahead a challenge. We work closely with people who know carers to understand how to provide a supportive environment that makes it easy for carers to come to class, and to continue long enough to realise the benefits.
At our first group class on Monday we used the the environment of a yoga class to illustrate the importance of boundaries in your own self-care. Just as leaving shoes and packing up neatly at the end of class create a safe space for yoga practice, boundaries in your own life ensure you have the physical and mental space to tend to your wellness. They also learnt how stress works (which explained their fatigue, digestive problems and foggy brains) and some of the yogic techniques that can help. We continue next week where we’ll be noticing the positive impact that caring for ourselves has on the loved one we care for.
Yoga for Carers comprises individual consults for participants, six group classes and two half-day retreats. To learn more please get in touch.