Becoming A Carer For A Loved One - Information And Support

From payments to wellbeing tips, here’s everything you need to know if you’re taking on the care of a family member or friend.

Becoming A Carer For A Loved One - Information And Support

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There are more than 2.65 million carers in Australia.

Taking on the role of carer for your child, partner, parent, relative, or friend means helping manage their daily activities such as cooking, bathing, going to the toilet, dressing, taking medicine, going to appointments, housework, shopping, transport and more.

As for why someone might become a carer of a loved one, this can be due to a variety of factors. It may be that the person they are caring for:

  • Has a medical condition
  • Lives with a disability
  • Is elderly
  • Experiences mental health challenges

While every person’s situation is different, generally the decision to provide care for a loved one is motivated by love, compassion, and a sense of duty. It also comes with a unique set of challenges and rewards. They may care for their loved one for 24 hours a day, or select hours and days per week. Carers of family or friends may also still work a casual, part or full-time job alongside being a carer.

This article explores the journey of becoming a carer for a loved one, delving into the support systems, legal aspects, and the emotional challenges that caregivers can experience.

Where to start as a carer for loved ones

So you’ve decided you’re taking on the role of caring for a family member or friend. What happens next?

Depending on the situation of the person you’re caring for, there are support systems in place for you as a carer. These systems include government-funded programs, non-profit organisations, and community initiatives.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the Home and Community Care Program for Younger People (HACC-PYP) are two major government-funded initiatives that provide financial support and services to caregivers. More information on financial support coming up in this article, so keep reading.

The government has also introduced a Carer’s Gateway website and call centre as an entry point for carers to access practical information and advice, online support resources, and services in their local area.

For aged care information and support, My Aged Care is a great helps older people and their carers understand, access and navigate the aged care system. You can access My Aged Care online, on the phone or in person.

Carers Australia is another incredible organisation advocating for a range of issues affecting carers and also delivering support and services.

Legal and financial factors

Becoming a carer may entail making legal and financial decisions for your loved one. These decisions can include setting up power of attorney, guardianship arrangements, and creating a will or advance care directives. Seeking legal advice is essential to ensure that you are fulfilling your responsibilities in accordance with the law.

Financially, caregivers in Australia may be eligible for carer payments and carer allowances through Centrelink.

The Carer Payment is designed to provide financial support to those who cannot work because they are caring for a family member with a severe disability or medical condition. The Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment to help cover the costs associated with providing care.

There are different rates of Carer Payment for single and partnered people, which can vary between $800 and $1600.

Emotional support as a carer

Caring for a family member involves some emotional and mental challenges. It's common to feel frustration, exhaustion, and even guilt at times, and that is nothing to feel ashamed of.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 71% of carers have poor physical or mental health.

It’s important to also prioritise your mental wellbeing as much as you can whilst caring for a loved one. While it’s easy to put your own needs aside to care for someone else, you cannot keep giving from an empty cup without it impacting your mental health.

There are some daily activities you can try to help reduce stress and improve your emotional wellbeing. These include:

    • Move your body - This could be as simple as going for a walk, or doing some gardening. Anything that gets you active can help with your mental health [1]. Being outdoors is an added bonus. Studies have shown being out in nature can improve cognitive function and mental health [2].
    • Get enough sleep - Adults should be getting 8-9 hours of sleep per night. Research has indicated that not getting enough shut-eye can increase negative emotional responses to stressors, and decrease positive emotions [3].
    • Eat a nutrient rich diet - A healthy, wholefood rich diet has been linked with better stress management and mental health [4].

    • Do something for yourself - Whether this be going to grab a quick coffee, reading your favourite magazine or listening to an episode of a podcast, finding even a small pocket of the day to do something for you will help you to de-stress and recalibrate.

    • Socialise when you can - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that when people are socially connected they are more likely to have better mental and physical health outcomes [5].

There are also a number of amazing mental health support services catered to carers and their loved ones.

  • Stride - Mental health support services designed to help carers and families across the full spectrum of mental health. Call 1300 00 1907.

  • Mind - Carer Helpline available 1300 554 660.

  • Carer Gateway - Online forum for carers to chat, ask questions and offer support.

  • Mental Health Carers Australia - Offer carer resources as well as an online forum.

You can also speak with your GP about mental health support options.

If you need immediate mental health support you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, or text them on 0477 13 11 14. For emergencies call 000.

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