You are vital.

It has been proven. Research shows that the chance of a full recovery is greater with strong effective support from family and friends – otherwise known as ‘carers’. A carer can be instrumental in all stages: diagnosis, treatment, relapse and recovery. Every case is individual, the treatment and recovery journey may take many years and a carer’s role in this can be demanding and tiring.

What is the primary carer’s role?

As discussed in ‘4. Your Role as Carer’: Ideally, the carer’s role focused on social and emotional support of the loved one. However, you may find yourself the key point of contact – or ‘case manager’ – for a team of health professionals (GP, nutritionist, psychologist, etc.) as well as ‘meal support’.

About stress

When someone has an eating disorder they are under a lot of stress. Stress can also be felt by their family and friends – even if it is only from concern about their loved one’s eating disorder. When under stress, we all start to see the world through the eyes of ‘the stressor’. This can mean we lose sight of the big picture, our usual reasoning capabilities and the ability to communicate effectively can be diminished.  These are normal human behavioural responses to stress. But it can be quite destructive when it comes to eating disorder recovery. If you need support managing stress seek help, contact a support worker at EDA.

Two steps forward one step back

Maintaining the middle ground between caring and control, and compassion and consistency is not always easy. Everyone slips, especially when under pressure. Don’t get caught up in it. Take a break, apologise to yourself and the other person – and try again. It actually helps the person you are supporting to model that it is okay and normal to make mistakes, and that it’s possible to pick yourself up and move on.  Revisit the reading on Carer roles from ‘Skills-Based Learning for Caring for a Loved one with an Eating Disorder’ Chapter 4, pages 25-29 – What kind of carer are you

Talk it through with…

Eating Disorders Association’s free counsellor:
07 3077 7320 Monday – Thursday 9-4pm (Queensland only)

Things you can do

  • Accept your role
    As a family member or friend, you cannot deal with all the problems associated with the disorder. Your role as a family member or friend is unique and something that a therapist can’t be, just as the therapist’s role is something a family member or friend can’t take on.
  • Do things as you usually would
    The person with the eating disorder needs to learn to co-exist with food and with other people, rather than others learning to co-exist with the eating disorder. Although this may be challenging try not to make any significant changes to meal times, food shopping, outings, topics of conversation, or other interests.
  • Take time out
    When things get too emotional between you and the person you are caring for, it’s best to pause, explain that you need ‘down time’ and remember the big picture.
  • Do fun things for you
    Release the pressure valve by doing fun, social things just for you. Recharge through activities that are good for you mentally, emotionally and physically.
  • Get Support
    It may be helpful for you to access a counsellor for yourself or a support group to connect with other carers. There are a number of Carer Peer Support Groups – some specific to eating disorders( Butterfly Foundation and EDA), some for mental illness (MIFQ and ARAFMI) and other general carer groups (Carers QLD).

Eating Disorder Specific

  • Eating Disorder Association & Eating Disorder Outreach Service Skills-based learning group for carers and families affected by eating disorders. Groups go for 6 weeks meeting once a week for two hours.  Contact EDA for details on next group. www.eda.org.au or 07 3077 7732
  • Butterfly Foundation Parents and Adult Carers Groups are for any adult who is a carer of someone with an eating disorder; this may be a parent, partner, grandparent, friend or other carer.  Conversation will focus on the carers’ experiences, and on topics that may help carers to cope better with an eating disorder in the home. Second Monday of the month from 7:00pm –  8:30pm AEST https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/our-services/support-groups/
  • Develop some resilience in yourself Mental Health Resource for Carers
    Online program designed to support carers of people who have a mental illness living in Queensland. An easy to work thorough series of sections to reduce confusion around the mental health system and some skills and strategies for coping and doing the right thing. http://mhr4c.com.au/coping-strategies/coping-styles/[/modal_text_link]
  • Spend time with other members of the family or friendship group.
    The person with the eating disorder is important, but no more so than other people. Try to avoid a situation where siblings or partners feel neglected.
  • Accept limitations and responsibilities
    The support and encouragement of family and friends is vital. However, it is the person with the eating disorder’s responsibility to take the necessary steps towards recovery.

Looking After Yourself Financially

The process to eating disorder recovery can take years. It can also affect your financial security. So taking care of yourself financially is helpful to both you and the one you are caring for.

  • Centrelink
    If you are doing a lot of support you may be able to access Centrelink payments via the ‘Carer Allowance’. There are a number of rules regarding this process. So it may be helpful to talk with one of the resource workers from Carers Queensland: http://carersqld.asn.au/. They have valuable knowledge of the system and managing its intricacies.
  • Health insurance
    It is helpful to look into health insurance, your loved one may be eligible for health insurance rebates depending on their coverage or if they included in your policy.
  • Free Sessions: Mental Health Treatment Plan
    A GP should develop a Mental Health Treatment Plan (and/ or and Chronic Illness treatment plan) for the person with the eating disorder. This process entitles a number of medicare rebate mental health sessions and/or complementary health sessions with eligible practitioners – more info: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/mental-ba-fact-pat Note: Your GP can also develop a mental health treatment plan for you if you are stressed. This will give you access to services to help manage the stress and the impact a carer’s responsibilities can have on your life.

Talk it through with…

Eating Disorders Association’s free counsellor:
07 3077 7320 Monday – Thursday 9-4pm (Queensland only)
Butterfly Foundation Support Services Monday to Friday 8am – 9pm AEST

  1. ED HOPE 1800 33 4673
  2. Web counselling thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/web-counselling
Or encourage your loved one to call The Eating Issues Centre on 07 3844 6055 for information and support Tuesday – Friday 9-4pm (Queensland only).
If you would prefer to email we will respond to you during office hours mailto:admin@eda.org.au