Caring for a loved one?

Caring for a loved one, I am. See my story here –

Are you caring for a loved one?

Caregivers are the family members and friends who help their loved ones with a range of tasks from paying bills or driving to doctors, to personal care such as bathing and dressing, to medical care such as administering medication.

“Caregivers often find themselves in this role without preparation or education and all while juggling their own lives,” said United Way Caregivers Coalition Manager Robin Ennis. “Caregivers within our communities should have access to the supports and resources they need to sustain themselves as caregivers.”

Resources help you care for your loved one

Resources help unpaid caregivers who assist loved ones of any age who are ill, frail or living with a disability or mental illness. Access to explore topics that provide family caregivers with valuable information from local experts and connections to local resources is imperative.

Investigate topics to optimise health whilst caring :

Here is the United Way Caregivers Coalition’s “Pathways for Caregivers” – This free guide contains information, ideas and support for providing care for loved ones. There are separate sections on aging, disabilities, and mental health issues. The guide is available online at While written to assist caregivers in the New Jersey (USA) region, much of the contents are applicable to caregivers throughout New Jersey and beyond!

In Australia see CarersNSW

Caring for a loved one.

Being aware of existing resources, even if provided elsewhere, can be beneficial as it initiates the thinking the same resources may be available near you.

Last but not least – self care is pivotal to carer health.

Look after yourself so that you can look after others optimally.

Read – Self care to ensure you remain robust physically and mentally.

Read – Self care – Self care can be 5 minutes with a cup of tea or a date with the hairdresser either way we need to spend a moment on ourselves to ensure we are robust and healthy to meet the demands of our varied roles.

Caring for a loved one?

Coping Strategies for Carers Addressing Acute Traumatic Injury.

Are you sitting in an intensive care unit (ICU) with a loved one who has sustained a traumatic injury. I sat in that seat 7 years ago when my daughter Emily had a ski ing accident that rendered her quadriplegic.

Listed below are coping strategies.

As a registered nurse and carer I realised the wealth of knowledge I’d gained through experience so I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was searching for answers in a tragedy.

I have learnt that we are more similar than different. We share similar worries and concerns so each chapter of my book addresses an issue that is probably debated in hospital waiting rooms around the world.

You are the most important person to your loved one and you need to advocate and action many complex issues moving forward – don’t burn out at the start. Coping with trauma injuries within a family or with a friend takes energy and focus so think of it as a marathon endeavour not a sprint.

Coping Strategies

Surround yourself with positive supporters and talk to professionals if you have concerns. Seek assistance early before a crisis arises. And realise you don’t have to cope alone – there’s help – investigate resources available to you. See reading and resources below.

Coping Strategies – Key thoughts for reflection :

  • It’s important not to let an injury define a person’s capabilities.
  • There are ways you can work around any injury to make it possible for differently-able people to do anything, to continue to do the things that they want to do.
  • Traumatic injury is heartbreaking but with time, care and resources individuals and families move forward.
  • Ultimately my role was guided by Emily’s goals. My own carer goal was to empower her to be exactly who she is and enjoy her life in the way she chooses because she’s still completely Emily.
  • Although science engenders great hope for the future we must take care to live now, in the present.  Seven years on Emily is living life to the full. Emily’s back at work, she’s on the bus, she’s back up at the bar ordering cocktails, she’s travelled in Australia, America, Europe and Asia. She’s independent, capable….and in love!
Coping Strategies

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” – Robert H. Schuller

COPING STRATEGIES for Carers Addressing Acute Traumatic Injury.

  • Slowly take a deep breath to calm yourself through fluttering panics or chin wobbles.
  • Solo 24-hour vigils are unsustainable; take turns if possible.
  • Take a break, walk away from the bedside to gather perspective and revitalise.
  • Get real sleep in a bed if possible as rest helps you think more rationally.
  • Eat small meals even if you don’t feel hungry as you need to fuel yourself.
  • Restrict intake of caffeine and alcohol as they can heighten anxiety.
  • ICUs are reactive, dealing with unstable, complex situations that are unsettling for everyone. Talking can be calming but make sure you talk to an experienced counsellor or consultant.
  • Catastrophic trauma needs endurance, so pace yourself.
  • Getting into rehabilitation is not a race; healing time in the ICU is important.
  • Delegate. A friend arranged for Qantas ground crew to walk me through LAX when I travelled through to Chicago. Anxiety, fear and sleep deprivation inhibit coping ability so accepting help is essential (see Chapter Three in Suddenly an Everyday Carer).
  • ICUs don’t usually allow flowers or pot plants for sanitary reasons. Helium balloons can be rejected as flammable so disseminate that information through your pyramid of communication (see Chapter Three in Suddenly an Everyday Carer ). Flowers and balloons are wonderful later in rehab.
  • The future hasn’t happened so don’t dwell on it. Focus on what’s in front of you today.
  • You don’t have to understand everything today.
  • Cling on to hope and don’t let it go.

Further reading and resources

Toll-free hotlines are available in most countries for anyone in emotional distress:

  • Lifeline crisis support (Australia) 13 11 14
  • Telefonseelsorge (Germany) 0800 111 0 111
  • Lifeline 24-hour telephone counselling (New Zealand) 09 5222 999
  • The Samaritans crisis support (UK) 116 123
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) 1 800 273 TALK

Inspirational Women Online Showcase 2019

Inspirational Women Online Showcase 2019
I aim to raise awareness through this online showcase enabling others to positively identify as carers.   

Inspirational Women Online Showcase

I was asked by CarersNSW to make a short video showcasing myself as a carer, aiming to raise awareness of my role, enabling others to positively identify as carers.

The home-made video details my story, highlighting Emily and my health and well-being as individuals. Presenting my book as an achievement within my caring journey. And ultimately inspiring women and girls to see caring as a positive role.

Inspirational Women Online Showcase – Rachel

The Inspirational Women Online Showcase videos touch on the three focus areas of the NSW Women’s Strategy: My video is in – participation and empowerment.

Inspirational Women Online Showcase – Rachel

Hi. I’m Rachel James and I’m a carer.

My daughter, Emily, had a snowboarding accident that rendered her quadriplegic in 2012. Emily’s spinal cord injury was devastating as it changed everything for her, but it also changed my life as I suddenly became her everyday carer.

  • My attitude has been to positively reinforce Emily’s mental strength; she ceased to walk but remains incredibly capable.
  • My task has been to reassure Emily that she can adapt without halting her living life to the full.

My caring role includes:

  • Being a facilitator.
  • I assist and enable Emily.
  • I ensure she has choices, opportunities and makes her own decisions.

I don’t relish Emily being defined by her accident, and I see myself holistically as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, a working registered nurse, a volunteer at lifeline….. AND a carer. 

I retain a clear sense of self, independent with a caring aspect to my life and ensure I practice self care.

I have reflected on what I overcame and learnt during the process of accepting my role as an everyday carer. It was so profound that I wanted to write to others who sadly would walk the same path through trauma. I started a blog journaling my day to day progress.

This blog developed into a book addressing common challenges within trauma, with an empathetic approach to grief, denial, anger and the emotional negotiation process towards acceptance, suggesting coping strategies through each chapter.

It’s 7 years since I became an everyday carer. I have learnt many things but namely that life is a bunch of random events, somethings can’t be fixed. Somethings HAVE to be accepted.

  • To move forward I had to adapt.
  • I learnt that it’s good to talk and I have also learnt it’s good to listen!

I am happy to report that Emily and I have active independent lives, we live along side each other with purpose and worth, joy and love.

I aim to raise awareness through this online showcase enabling others to positively identify as carers.   

Inspirational Women Online Showcase – Rachel

My video is in – participation and empowerment.

The videos can also be viewed on our Youtube Channel Inspirational Women playlist:

Further Reading – Supporting Carers

Read – Carers – Self Care

Suddenly an Everyday Carer – buy the book

Carers + Employers – A New Initiative.

CarersNSW has launched a progressive new initiative Carers + Employers. I was asked to sit on the Project Management Group as a carer representative so I’m delighted to announce the Carers + Employers initiative launched on 1st March.

Carers + Employers Initiative

Carers + Employers – A New Initiative.

This new initiative has been developed with both NSW and Commonwealth Government funding aiming to support workplaces to become more carer friendly, as well as developing a network of employers with improved employment outcomes for carers. The number of carers in the community is set to rise as population ages, and Australians live longer and retire later.

Carers + Employers Initiative – Accreditation.

Juggling both paid and unpaid work is very stressful. Many carers struggle to balance these two roles. Carers + Employers initiative is the first program in Australia that formally accredits carer-friendly employers.

The Carers + Employers initiative program has an accreditation framework that recognises employers that are actively supporting paid work for people with caring responsibilities. There are three levels of accreditation.

  1. Activate
  2. Commit
  3. Excel

Employers that join the program will become part of a network that has access to a dedicated website and member resources. Becoming an Accredited Carer Employer contributes to staff wellbeing, workforce management and wider corporate social responsibility.

There are many ways an organisation can better support carers in their workforce. Strategies do not have to be costly or require major organisational changes.

Carers + Employers Initiative – Supporting carers works for everyone.

Here are 10 tips for a carer-friendly workplace

  1. Enable staff with caring responsibilities to identify themselves.
  2. Develop a supportive culture so carers feel comfortable disclosing their caring responsibilities.
  3. Consult your workforce.
  4. Make it easy for carers to find out what support is available, and how it can be accessed.
  5. Promote carers leave entitlements. Explore flexible leave options.
  6. Promote flexible working arrangements. Ensure staff are aware of carers rights to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act.
  7. Deliver training so that support is consistently offered. Line managers should understand the challenges faced by carers, and the policies available.
  8. Monitor progress and adjust support as necessary.
  9. Explore opportunities such as offering career breaks, promoting carer-specific return to work programs.
  10. Provide practical support such as quiet rooms, a car space, peer support group, online forum or “lunch and learn” education sessions can be useful.

Carers + Employers Initiative – A Business Case

The business case for the Carers + Employers initiative

  • Improved staff retention.
  • Reduced recruitment and training costs.
  • Reduced stress, sick leave and absenteeism.
  • Improved staff moral and engagement.
  • Increased productivity (1).
carers + employers initiative
Carers +Employers Initiative – works for everyone.

Finally If you would like more information about the program please visit the dedicated website:

For organisations wanting more information about the initiative please email:

Further reading regarding carers – Caring is not an isolated activity

(1) Supporting Working Carers: The Benefits to Families, Business and the Economy, Final Report of the Carers in Employment Task and Finish Group, HM Government, Employers for Carers and Carers UK (2013). Evidence was based on research with 200+ employers in the UK.

Shocking news – How we coped

The images of London’s Westminster Bridge after the carnage wrought by a terrorist shocked me as did the images from Berlin (Dec 2016) and Cannes (July 2016). These news reports instantly take me back to when I got a call from a surgeon asking for permission to undertake surgery on my daughter, Emily, after a traumatic event.  Shocking news but we coped……

Shocking news - How we coped

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Carers on International Women’s Day

I was invited onto the ABC 702 Drive Show to talk to Chris Bath about my caring role. Our conversation highlighted the role of carers on International Women’s Day as 70% of primary carers in Australia are women. Have a listen to our discussion.

Carers on International Women's Day

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Domestic abuse victims need resources

As a caregiver I write to facilitate wellbeing in the home but what if life crumbles into violence, domestic abuse victims need resources, information, respite and support. This is pertinent subject as the Royal Commission into Families Violence released a report with 277 recommendations…

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