Many people in our community are caring for someone who is ‘frail aged’, has a terminal or chronic illness or has a physical, intellectual or mental health disability or maybe a combination of these conditions. These unpaid carers may be female, male, young, middle aged, old, may also be in the workforce or not. Perhaps you are a carer yourself. If you are a full time carer it is quite possible you have said, ‘I’m just a carer,’ at some time. Don’t underrate the amazing job you do.
Carers sometimes don’t even acknowledge they are carers. They will say the person they care for is a son, daughter, spouse, parent or sibling and so providing care is their responsibility. A carer may be providing care for a neighbour or friend and again say it is what people should do for others in their community, no big deal. However, being a carer is a big deal and can have a huge impact on the carer’s life as well as the life of the person they care for.
A carer may be caring for more than one person. The caring role may be in addition to parenting responsibilities. The carer may have health issues or a disability themselves. Whatever the situation carers often don’t acknowledge how much their caring role affects their life in many ways. They may also not be aware of support that is available and which they are entitled to. It is easy for a carer to say there are others worse off and that they can battle on themselves without help.
In the past carers were not recognised for their important contribution to society. There is still confusion over the term ‘carer’ with it also being used sometimes to describe a person who has a paid position providing care to elderly people in aged care facilities or people with disabilities.
Today Carers are receiving more recognition and an important step forward was the introduction of the Carer Recognition Act 2010 at the federal level in addition to similar Acts in each state. The purpose of this Act, quoting from the Act itself is to ‘increase recognition and awareness of carers and to acknowledge the valuable contribution they make to society.’ It is recognised that carers save the government a great deal of money.
Carers often don’t think about all the roles they perform. These may include nurse, mediator, taxi driver, interpreter, budget manager, maintenance person, cook, cleaner, advocate, secretary and many others.
Sometimes a carer ends up doing some of the work a paid person (for example case manager, social housing manager) should be doing but isn’t due to lack of knowledge or resources. There may not be the relevant person in a regional or rural area so the carer takes the responsibility for getting the necessary tasks done. Some care recipients receive support from paid workers but when there is no one available as can happen from time to time especially in areas where there is a shortage of paid support workers, the unpaid carer may have to step in.
If you are a carer, don’t downgrade yourself. Be proud of what you do. Read part 2 for some tips on caring for yourself.