Care Factor

Care Factor

Who’s caring for the carers?

They come from all walks of life and are imbued with an altruism that transcends both culture and religion. Some are aged just 10, while others are nearing ninety.

They’re spouses, parents, sons and daughters, siblings, friends, nieces, nephews and neighbours. They may care for a frail-aged person, someone with a disability, chronic or mental illness, or someone recovering from an accident.

More than 2.6 million Australians put their own needs second to provide care and support for others, but at what cost?

The demand on carers can be harsh, a responsibility thrust upon them in an instant – perhaps after a health crisis like a stroke or heart attack. Other times it may happen gradually as a person’s health and independence deteriorate over time.

It’s common for carers to feel they have no choice. Even in large families, providing care is often left to one person rather than being shared. That can mean around the clock assistance to a family member with high care needs. This might include feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting, lifting and moving, and administering medications.

The more independent may need someone simply to keep an eye on them or help with tasks such as banking, transport, shopping and housework.

According to Carers Victoria, society relies too heavily on care provided by families. The organisation advocates for practical reforms to help protect carers from the challenges of their calling.

Financial hardship

Half of Australia’s primary carers are on a low income and many find it hard to cover living expenses, save money or build up superannuation

The extra costs of caring can be enormous. Caring families often have to find money for extra expenses like heating and laundry, medicines, disability aids, health care and transport.

Health and wellbeing

  • Caring can be emotionally taxing and physically draining. Carers have the lowest wellbeing of any large group measured by the Australian Unity Wellbeing index.
  • Carers often ignore their own health and are 40 per cent more likely to suffer from a chronic health condition. Some health problems, like back problems, anxiety and depression, can be directly linked to caring.
  • Many carers are chronically tired and desperately need to refresh with just one night of unbroken sleep, a day off or an extended period with no caring responsibilities.

Social isolation and relationships

  • Many carers feel isolated, missing the social opportunities associated with work, recreation and leisure activities.
  • The demands of caring can leave little time for other family members or friends.
  • Carers often have to deal with strong emotions, like anger, guilt, grief and distress that can spill into other relationships and cause conflict and frustration.

Disadvantages

  • Many carers miss out on important life opportunities, particularly for paid work, a career and education
  • Caring can take the freedom and spontaneity out of life
  • Emotions like anger, depression, anxiety, loneliness, loss and grief are common. While family and friends can provide important support, the advice is to talk with an objective professional who is not emotionally involved.

A Federal Government initiative is assisting in reducing stress and improving health and wellbeing. The National Carer Counselling Program offers lessons on coping skills and strategies, including dealing with deterioration in the well-being of the person requiring care. It can help with issues that arise from moving to a residential care facility, assisted accommodation or to another primary carer.

The counselling extends to the carer’s bereavement and loss following the death of a person for who they have supported. Counselling is available via phone, face-to-face and through group counselling programs.

According to Carers Queensland, counselling also helps carers deal with overwhelming and confusing feelings; to make sense of their experiences; work out their needs and solve problems; manage conflict, stress and other emotional factors; build resilience and cope with change; and improve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

To make an appointment or to access the telephone counselling service, call the Carers Advisory Service on 1800 242 636 between 9am and 5pm weekdays. (Free call from local phones, mobile calls at mobile rates).



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