Managing health and behaviour
The person you care for is likely to have health problems, and may sometimes also have challenging behaviour. As a carer, there are some key strategies you can use to manage their health and behaviour.
The person you care for is likely to be taking medicines. Managing medicines is one of your most important tasks as a carer.
You should make a medicine list to help you make sure the person you care for takes the right medicines at the right time and to provide information for doctors, pharmacists or emergency carers.
You will also need to keep track of when medicine was bought and prescribed. This can help you to plan when you will need to buy more or to get a new prescription.
How to make a medicine list
The medicine list is part of your emergency care plan. You can download a blank emergency care plan to fill in.
In your emergency care plan, your medicine plan should list:
- all the medicines the person is taking (including prescription medicines and medicines you buy over the counter)
- when each medicine is taken
- what doses are taken
You might also want to write down:
- what each medicine looks like
- what each medicine is for
- how the medicines need to be stored
How to store medicines
Medicines should be stored in a secure, lockable place out of the reach of children. If they need to be stored in the fridge, your pharmacist should tell you and it will also be written on the label.
Daily pill boxes can help you make sure the person you care for takes the right medicines each day. You can buy a daily pill box and put the medicines in it at the beginning of each week. Your pharmacist can also give you medicines in a personalised daily pack (known as a Webster-pak).
Getting help with medicines
If you need help with managing medicines or want to check what the person you care for is taking, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist to do a home medicines review.
If the person you care for changes which medicines they are taking, you will need to monitor them to make sure the new medicine doesn’t cause problems or side effects. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you think there might be problems.
Dealing with incontinence
Incontinence means the person can’t hold in urine (pee) or faeces (poo). Incontinence can cause a lot of work for you as a carer.
How to reduce incontinence
If the person you care for is incontinent, they should be checked by your doctor or a continence nurse adviser. This will help you and the person you care for to manage the problems. There are health care professionals who specialise in continence and you can search for one on the Continence Foundation of Australia website.
- drinking enough water
- eating a healthy diet
- maintaining a good body weight
- being active
- practising good toilet habits
How to manage incontinence
As a carer, you may need to plan ahead to manage incontinence. For example, if you have to take the person you care for out of the home, you might need to:
- carry enough incontinence products (such as incontinence pads), and spare clothes, hand sanitiser and wipes in case of an accident
- find out beforehand where the closest public toilets are
The continence booklet for carers has more information about managing incontinence.
Getting help with incontinence
You can call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 330 066 for support. The helpline can also tell you about continence products that are available and where to buy them. You can get financial help for continence products through the Australian Government Continence Aids Payment Scheme.
The Continence Foundation of Australia has a continence support forum.
Managing challenging behaviours
Sometimes, the person you care for may have ‘challenging behaviours’. They might be:
- rude or socially inappropriate
- uncooperative or withdrawn
- verbally abusive
- aggressive, violent or destructive
Challenging behaviours can be a common symptom of many conditions, including intellectual disability, autism, mental health conditions or dementia. Challenging behaviours can also develop over time as a health condition changes.
You can try different ways to prevent or reduce challenging behaviours.
How to prevent challenging behaviours
To prevent challenging behaviours:
- try to reduce possible causes of the behaviour. Challenging behaviours can be triggered by:
- pain or discomfort, such as a noisy environment
- a break in routine or being rushed
- changes in medicines
- changes in the living environment
- significant life events
- having trouble communicating, leading to frustration
- try to ensure that you have an unrushed and consistent routine
- try to keep the environment consistent
- spend time explaining what is happening, step-by-step, in simple sentences. Even if the words are not understood, your calm voice may be reassuring
- make sure the person gets enough exercise and activities
- make sure they are comfortable
You can also try approaches to teach and encourage positive behaviours. One approach, often suggested for children with autism, is called positive behaviour support – you can use many of the same ideas in your care.
How to manage challenging behaviours
When challenging behaviours occur:
- back off where possible. You might need to leave the person until they have calmed down
- stay calm and speak in a calm, reassuring voice
- fix the underlying cause, if possible
- try to distract the person. Having a drink or snack together, going for a walk or looking at a magazine together may help
Getting help with challenging behaviours
You can talk with your doctor if you have concerns about challenging behaviour. They will be able to check out whether the behaviour is being caused by an illness or is a side effect of a medicine. Your doctor, social worker or other health professionals can also talk with you about therapy options, such as those offered for children with autism.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, you can call the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service on 1800 699 799.
Autism Awareness Australia has information about therapy and support for children and adults with autism. The Raising Children Network also has information about managing challenging behaviours and encouraging cooperative behaviours.
Download a blank emergency care plan to fill in, so someone can take over from you in a hurry
Find out more about incontinence from the National Continence Helpline website, or call 1800 330 066
Find out more about dementia from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service website, or call 1800 699 799
Find out more about autism from Autism Awareness Australia, or call 1300 900 681
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