Why it’s Crucial to Care for the Carers
Millions of Australians play the role of a personal carer at some point in their lives, including adult children taking care of their sick parents or people helping friends recover after an accident.
In fact, more than one in ten people in New South Wales is a carer who aids and support to someone with a terminal illness, chronic disability, or is up there in age.
The term “carer” means different things to different people. Many people do not identify as a carer when tending to a family member. For most, offering support to parents, siblings, or friends is just part of their civic duty. In other words, one can be a lay carer or professional carer – with or without pay.
Who are Carers?
Carers are those who take care of someone to help improve their quality of life. The support can be gradual, as when the patient feels better, and the amount of care diminishes. However, sometimes the need for care is sudden, such as after a major accident or a heart attack.
Carers help patients get back on their feet. The type of support may include preparing meals, feeding, dressing, bathroom assistance, and administration of medicines. Beyond daily tasks at home, care could involve driving the patient to doctor’s appointments and running errands such as banking and shopping.
How vital are carers in Australia?
Many Australians experience a wide range of health and socioeconomic issues, and some may not be able to access the necessary support to reach a full recovery.
Rewards and challenges of caring
Caring for someone else can be both rewarding and challenging. Of course, the most common reason people take on a caring role is their duty to their family. But beyond that sense of responsibility, there are other reasons why caring can be rewarding. Some of them are the following:
- The satisfaction of having helped someone get their life back or improve their quality of life.
- Receiving appreciation from the patient and their family and friends.
- Strengthening the bond between patient and carer.
- The opportunity for personal growth.
- Developing new skills.
- The satisfaction of being able to face and overcome new challenges.
However, caring for someone can also bring many challenges.
- Caring for someone takes a lot of time, energy, and resources.
- The need to give up a job or cut back work hours can result in financial hardship.
- The physical and emotional burden of having to look after someone 24/7.
- The development of health issues such as anxiety, back problems, and depression.
- The uncertainty of the outcome, which could be a full recovery or death.
- Feeling isolated and missing out on family life and social activities.
When these challenges arise, it is important that the carer seek support as needed. In addition, families, employers, communities, and healthcare providers must be aware of the challenges that come with caring so they can provide the necessary care for the carer.
Carers NSW is an Australian NGO that focuses on improving the lives of carers. The organisation works with all carers regardless of age, life stage, and circumstance.
Carers NSW regularly makes recommendations to the NSW and Australian governments on policy changes that will help improve the lives of those who are caring for individuals with support needs relating to aging, disability, terminal disease, and mental illness.
How to become a carer
Taking on the responsibility of caring for someone is a big commitment. In some cases, it means giving up a high-paying career which could have a significant financial impact on the carer. So why do people do it?
For some people, providing care is their sense of duty when a family member goes through a health crisis, so they take on the job willingly. Others do it because no one else will.
Before deciding on becoming a carer, ask the following questions:
- How much care does the patient need? Will it only be for a few days or weeks?
- What kind of care does the patient need? Do they need assistance in preparing meals and doing the laundry? If there are mobility issues, does the patient need help eating, bathing, dressing, and going to the toilet?
- Is the carer capable of providing the support that the patient needs?
- Does the patient require 24/7 monitoring?
- Can the carer afford it? Taking on a care role might mean giving up employment.
- Is there government support available?
- Does the carer want to do it? Some people feel that they do not have a choice, but it is also crucial to consider their needs instead of taking on a care role with resentment.
- Could someone else help?
How to support carers who support others
Carers play an important role not only in the lives of the people they care for, but in society. A handful of organisations offer a wide range of services that support the health and well-being of carers and the people they care for.
For carers who are starting to feel the burden of caring for someone, here are a few things that can help.
- Apply for financial assistance such as Carer Payment and Carer Allowance from the Australian Government.
- Seek respite care so both carer and patient can take a short break.
- Ask other family members or friends to contribute to patient care on a regular or informal basis.
- Join a local support group for carers
- Contact Carers NSW and talk to someone.
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