A few weeks ago I shared a post about why it’s so important to find support, even if you don’t think you need it.
This week I want to share 9 different ways you can find support as a carer.
I’ve listed these in order of difficulty – the easiest & most convenient ways to find help and support right now, through to the face-to-face/face your fears ways. This is essentially the path I’ve followed as I’ve sought help and support as a special needs parent over the last 12 years.
Most of these will not be new to you. However, you may not have considered that you could access help and support for yourself as a carer, not just for your child’s needs, in some of these cases.
Hopefully you’ll be able to find at least one way you can move forward in order to get the help and support that you need as a carer.
9 Ways to Find Support as a Carer
This is a great place to start. You can find Facebook groups to join, Twitter hashtags to follow, YouTube videos to watch, Pinterest boards for information & inspiration and Instagram accounts to check out.
If you search for it on social media, you’ll be bound to find information, advice and support to help you. There is so much information out there, on nearly every possible condition. Best of all, you can access this information on your own terms, whenever and however you like.
Social media is usually the gateway to blogs and websites which can provide more in depth information and guidance. Plus, social media is a really convenient and easy way to keep in touch with friends and family and to find and connect with others facing similar challenges to you.
Blogs & websites
There are so many amazing blogs and websites around the internet devoted to helping parents, like you, make sense of your child’s condition. Do some google searching and you will fall down the rabbit hole of information overload.
There are medical & specialist websites to provide information on your child’s condition. There are therapy & education sites providing tips for helping them learn and thrive. There are personal accounts of living as special needs families, as well as adult advocates sharing their own thoughts and experiences.
Blogs and websites can be interactive places to find out more. You can leave comments on posts to seek more specific information and advice. You can email the administrator of the site directly to connect. You can participate in site forums and interact with others, all looking to share information and find support. Websites and blogs really do offer a lot of support to parents of kids with special needs.
The next level of online support comes in the form of online learning programs. These are designed to help you develop a skill set in your own time and at your own pace. Course material is often available to download or access as you require it, giving you support and guidance whenever you need it.
Many educational and support websites will offer some form of online training, covering many aspects of special needs parenting. These can come in the form of e-books (both free and paid), self-paced coursework undertaken directly on the website or there may be the option to participate in webinars (live online training) where you can learn and ask questions in real time.
Aside from learning new skills and knowledge, online learning programs can also connect you with other participants for mutual ongoing support. In addition, online learning can also build trust in the presenter and their site, providing you with a safe place to ask questions and seek advice in the future.
Family & Friends
The first level of real world support comes in the shape of your family and friends. They know you best and they will more than likely know your kids better than anyone else too. If you can, lean on them for support as it’s so much easier to trust those close to you than to build up support networks from scratch.
Family and friends may not truly understand what you are going through but they can still lend vital support. They can offer a shoulder to cry on and give you the chance to release your feelings. They can provide practical assistance by helping look after your kids so you can have a break. They can help with household tasks like cooking and cleaning and can provide back up when you need to challenge the school, specialists or therapists.
When seeking help from friends and family, ask them for specific assistance. Don’t be shy to tell them exactly what you need assistance with and exactly how to provide that assistance. This way you will get assistance that will genuinely help you and your family and friends will know exactly what’s expected of them.
Some of the best support available comes from other families you encounter at school, at therapy appointments or at after-school activities. You may be strangers to begin with, but the bond of shared experiences can be a powerful one, and one you should not discount.
Don’t close yourself up to the potential support that fellow parents can provide. You may not want to share your story with everyone and you may not wish to go through the stress and strain of making new friends as an adult. It might seem just another hurdle in your already complicated life.
However, these relationships built on shared experiences can be some of the most valuable you can ever cultivate. Other parents and families can often provide a level of understanding and empathy you cannot get from your own family and friends. Connecting over shared struggles, triumphs and experiences can be just the right amount of support that you need.
Community support groups
The next level up from seeking support from those around you is to approach community support groups in your local area. This can be a daunting leap, especially if you have not shared your situation with many others or if you are self-conscious about reaching out to strangers.
However, this is exactly what these groups are set up to do. It can be beneficial to talk to others who are removed from your situation but who also have the knowledge and skills to provide you with assistance and support. Leaders and members of these groups have the knowledge and expertise to directly support you and your family. They can also direct you to other organisations for further help and advice.
A quick look on the internet or in your local yellow pages will come up with a list of support groups you could join. Talking to others in a similar situation can really help – sometimes just being understood is enough. And if you do not have close friends or family you can confide in, community support groups can be the first step in building your own network of help and support around you.
Workshops & training
Attending face-to-face workshops, training and information sessions is another practical way to gain knowledge and find support. There are all sorts of training options out there, providing information on a range of topics including general parenting guidance, condition specific presentations, technology workshops and therapy sessions.
In addition to expanding your knowledge through the training itself, these sessions also provide the opportunity to connect with others facing similar challenges and in need of support too. Most of the other attendees will be in a similar position to you so why not try to strike up a conversation with those sitting near you and with other attendees during session breaks? Seriously, what do you have to lose?
Building networks with the organisations presenting information is also a great way to access ongoing support. Make sure you have a quick chat with their representatives, take their business cards and presentation material and ask how you can access more information if needed in future. They want to help you, so let them!
Your children’s therapists are a great source of help and support. You will no doubt build a strong relationship with your child’s occupational therapist, speech pathologist, pyschologist, dietician, etc. as you work together to create an effective therapy regime for your child.
While they are engaged to directly help your child, part of their role is to also support you in carrying out their recommended therapies at home. So feel free to ask them questions and seek advice if you are struggling with any aspect of the therapy regime.
Therapists are sources of experience and expertise, so if you have a question related to your child’s condition, they can usually answer it. Often they can also provide understanding and emotional support if you find you are truly struggling with managing behaviours or therapies. Never discount the real support you can access from your child’s therapists.
If you feel like you are drowning in your own anxiety, worries and fears or if you are feeling rundown, exhausted and stressed, your GP can help. It’s always a good idea to keep up to date with your own physical health anyway. Even if you have no health concerns, you should visit the GP annually for a check up, regardless.
Apart from treating your physical issues, GPs can also help if you feel you are not mentally or emotionally coping. They can coordinate mental health treatment plans so you (or your child) can access mental health services subsidised by Medicare. They can also coordinate chronic disease management care plans for you and for your child, to manage complex and chronic medical needs.
GPs can also refer you to other specialists, therapists and specialist support groups. They can even advise you on other support services available in your local area. It really is worthwhile visiting your GP at least once a year and finding out what support you can access through them.
Please let me know of any extra ways you have found support as a carer – I’d love to add to this list.
Sharing with Grace for FYBF, the girls at the Ultimate Rabbit Hole and Leanne for the Lovin Life Linky.