Supporting your wellbeing as a frontline caregiver

Picture of Kate Joyce
Posted by Kate Joyce

Caregiving can feel like a lonely and thankless journey. It's easy to go unnoticed, voice unheard. Kate Joyce is on a mission to change that. With 25 years in care under her belt, she’s creating a community to connect caregivers, a sanctuary to learn, grow and unwind.

Whether you are a new caregiver, or have years of experience you will be faced with new challenges each day. No two days are the same, this can be the best and worst part of the role as a caregiver. 

While some people thrive in an ever-changing environment, others can find this overwhelming. One day you can be thriving and others it can be a really lonely place. Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to help navigate this sometimes unforgiving, unthankful world of caring.

Get organised

Some may see us as swans; while appearing graceful underneath we are kicking and fighting to hold it all together. Getting organised would be my number one for everyone. Working shift patterns isn’t for everyone and we are more likely to miss events, birthdays, double book ourselves or simply never be able to make time for basic things such as appointments. 

Take time once a week (it’s Sunday evenings for me) to update your diary (yes, I have an old fashioned paperback) or calendar on your phone to prioritise what the upcoming week has in store. I find this helps me avoid stress, last minute rushing and plan time for myself - giving me the ability to say ‘no’. For many of us working in care, it can be really hard to say “no” and seem easier to just deal with the overwhelm. But being organised helps manage anxiety, burnout and sleepless nights. Being organised will help bring you a sense of calm and achievement looking back.

“If you see a team member on the hamster wheel, don’t be afraid to step in and pause it. Do they need a day off, a shift swap, a night out?”

Get prepared

As the saying goes, ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. In care we also know that ‘Plans never go to plan’ so always have a plan B. Plan B will be your best friend. Think ahead, risk assess everything. Think like your client or relative and put yourself in their shoes. Most people won’t do what’s easier for you (a pitfall in caregivers I see a lot), so trying to rush or not allow extra time will come back to bite you. Be prepared for pushback, think outside the box and if you are prepared as much as you can be, plan B will come a lot easier and without a lot more stress.

Set alarms and reminders

These are going to be a big help overall. Working shifts can and will cause havoc with your sleep pattern. Set alarms even on your days off, these will help you no end when it comes to getting a good night sleep. Keep a regular sleep pattern; this doesn’t have to be the ‘Insta-style 4am productive mornings’, it can be to simply keep insomnia at bay. 

Reminders are good for other things too such as completing tasks efficiently, laundry, cooking and making important calls. Alarms and reminders will have your back and leave you feeling accomplished at the end of the day and not thinking of all the things you forgot at the end of your shift.

Communication is key

Communication in any care setting is gold! Record, document, and pass it on! Lack of communication is the reason for most, if not all, issues in care settings. No-one should be left guessing, communicating with your team, family and external bodies. The difference between a team that communicates effectively and a team that doesn’t is night and day. Communicating is to pass on observations and relay factual information - not to gossip and point fingers. This isn’t healthy for a team and can impact greatly on the person receiving care.

Communication can be simple - starting with a team’s strengths and weaknesses. If you have more experience in a particular area, put yourself up for that role. This could be maths. Are you good at counting? Then put yourself forward for counting money or medication. If someone is better at cooking then get them batch cooking. Maybe your passion is organising activities and events, then go for it. Communicating in this way makes for a happy and accomplished team and very happy clients.

Help each other out

One of the biggest things caregivers forget to do is put themselves first (occupational hazard). If you see a team member on the hamster wheel, don’t be afraid to step in and pause the wheel. Do they need a day off, a shift swap, a night out? Then put it to them, or make plans, make a call to management and find a way to give back to them. Come together, they may just need it more than you know. On the flip side, be sure to schedule time for yourself. Maybe a bath in minerals to soak those aching muscles! A good book to take you away from the reality around you. A coffee date with friends (coffee can be substituted with a glass of wine or gin), a meal out or that long overdue trip you keep putting off.

Kate Joyce, Liberté Care GroupKate Joyce is the Founder of Liberté Care Group, the place where caregivers connect, share and thrive together. A caregiving veteran with 25 years’ experience, Kate is here to be the biggest champion and supporter of caregivers. Her vision is to create a nurturing space where caregivers, whether paid or unpaid, can come together to feel valued, heard, and supported. Starting out with a free Facebook group to share advice and tips, Kate now coordinates an exclusive affordable membership community called The Care Lounge. She is also the author of several guides on caregiving.

For more advice and examples of supporting the wellbeing of a homecare team, download our Carer Wellbeing Report 2024.