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How are we caring for the carers?

Mother helping son to put frosting onto cupcakes

Informal carers have been called the unsung heroes of this country. Research from Carers Australia in 2015 found that over 1 in 8 Australians (2.86 million people) are estimated to be providing informal care. Of these, 825,000 are primary carers. Unpaid carers are a valuable resource for this country, but how are we making sure they’re cared for?

It’s estimated that unpaid carers provide over $1 billion worth of care per week – almost always to a family member. Over the next decade, the demand for unpaid carers is set to soar. In this context, access to flexible, fairly priced support, like the kind offered by independent workers via Mable, will be essential to provide some much-needed respite.

What supports are available for carers?

The Australian government’s Carer Gateway offers a national online and phone service that provides practical information and connects carers with local supports.

Announced in the recent federal budget, the government has pledged to spend an extra $84.3 million on services for the country’s informal carers. The funding will be used for new educational resources, peer support and phone-based counselling to bolster current provisions for Australia’s carers.

The Integrated Carer Support Service model has already commenced its rollout, and is designed to provide carers with new, improved supports and services. New digital services for carers will be available from July 2019 through Carer Gateway, followed by a network of Carer Gateway regional delivery partners from September this year. The regional partners will assist families with activities like needs assessments, financial support packages, access to emergency crisis support and help navigating local services.

Carers Australia is a national peak body that, in conjunction with state and territory Carers Associations, provides advocacy and information to improve the wellbeing and financial security of carers.

What financial support is available for carers?

There are a range of payments available for carers, with detailed information and links provided on the DSS website. These range from income payments and supplements to one-off financial assistance such as the Carer Adjustment Payment, which is provided to families in exceptional circumstances who do not qualify for Government income support payments. In some cases, rent assistance, concessions, pharmaceutical benefits and more can be accessed by carers and their families.

How to take care of yourself if you’re a carer

For family caregivers, additional factors like financial burden, living situations and concern for your loved ones can contribute to stress. It’s important to take time out when you can to look after your own wellbeing.

1. Prioritise sleep and eating well. While the benefits of meditation, yoga and other mind-body practices are obvious, for a time-poor carer, they just may not be feasible. Take steps to avoid caregiver burnout by not forgetting to meet your own basic needs of maintaining a good diet and prioritising quality sleep when you can.

2. Get some respite. Engaging someone for a few hours to help around the house, do the shopping or assist with taking care of your family member may allow you to take a few hours out for yourself.

3. Stay in touch. Being a caregiver can be isolating. Support groups can provide an outlet for stress as well as a valuable source of information on the type of care you’re providing. Something as simple as a Facebook group where people share information, questions and tips can provide that much-needed lifeline.

4. Maintain social connections. Schedule some time, no matter how little, to step out of your responsibilities and do something you love. Engaging a support worker for a couple of hours so you can see a movie, grab a coffee or do some exercise can help to recharge your batteries.

Mable allows you to search for and directly engage with independent workers. It’s free to sign up and there are no contracts, so you can access flexible support when you need it. Independent workers on the Mable platform are registered nurses, experienced support workers, allied health professionals and people offering social domestic support. See who’s available in your area today.

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