STUDY AND THE CARING ROLE
Challenging yourself to learn a new subject, develop your skills or explore a topic that interests you, can have many positive effects in your personal, work and social life. Finding the time and motivation to study whilst managing carer responsibilities can be a challenge, but with some planning and a supportive learning environment you can work towards achieving your study goals.
Similar to caring in some aspects, study is how we come to better understand the world around us, ask questions and ultimately share our knowledge with others. Study can be a distraction from the routine of everyday life, it can connect us with others who are interested in similar topics and helps provide a purpose and structure that as carers we sometimes miss out on.
Study can take place inside a classroom at School, TAFE and University or on the job training in the workplace. Available technology means that if students choose to, they can learn on demand at a time and place to suit their lifestyle, something that many carers would find convenient.
The cost associated with study can sometimes be a deterrent, particularly when finances for carers are known to be tight however there are usually payment plan options and even discounted fees or supplements available for students who are receiving income support payments. Many learning institutions and local libraries have computers with internet access, quiet study areas and staff who can help assist in finding the information you need.
Discussion or study groups with students in your course, either face to face or online, can be a great way of staying motivated whilst learning. Caring responsibilities might mean you aren’t always able to participate but get involved when you can, the experience and perspective of a carer is unique and can usually add value to any discussion.
If you are interested in studying at any level or have already started, the most important thing to do is speak with your teacher or course co-ordinator and let them know you have caring responsibilities. It is up to you how much you share with them about your caring role, as long as they are aware and understand that sometimes your study may be impacted or interrupted. Teaching staff have a responsibility to respect student’s circumstances and work with them towards the goal of completing the course. Be as open and honest as you can with them and you will likely find the support you need.
The next best thing to do is make a plan, make it flexible and be prepared to change it completely. You may attend face to face classes where times are set but outside of this planning study times is mostly up to you. Find a time that works around your caring responsibilities and make it work. It will probably be difficult, caring can be stressful and make it hard to focus, but putting a plan in place gives you a starting point.
Whilst the stress and practical demands of caring can make studying hard, the sense of achievement that comes from completing any type of study is a rewarding experience for you. If circumstances change and you are unable to complete your studies as expected, don’t be discouraged, be proud of what you achieved and work on a plan to progress further when the next study opportunity comes up.
Read a report on Access and Inclusion for Carers in Higher Education.