Managing health and behaviour

7 minute read

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.

Managing medicines

The person you care for is likely to be taking medicines. Managing medicines is an important task for you 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.

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.

The Continence Foundation of Australia and Healthdirect have tips about how to reduce incontinence.

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 located.

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.

Managing eating disorders

An eating disorder is a serious mental health condition that involves an unhealthy relationship with food. Eating disorders include binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED). Eating disorders can have a significant physical and emotional impact on the person affected, and their carer.

Getting help with eating disorders

If the person you care for has symptoms of an eating disorder, it is important to seek professional help as early as possible. Your doctor can refer you to an appropriate health professional who will determine whether the person has an eating disorder.

Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA) provides information for families and carers of a person with eating disorders.

You can also speak confidentially to an adviser on the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline (1800 33 4673, 8am to midnight AEST, 7 days a week).

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
    • tiredness
    • changes in medicines
    • changes in the living environment
    • significant life events
    • having trouble communicating, leading to frustration
    • boredom or loneliness

    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.