Today marks the beginning of Carers Week in Australia. Carers Week seeks to highlight the valuable role that unpaid family carers play in our community.
Who are the carers?
Most carers will be family members providing support to children or adults with a disability, mental illness or chronic health condition. Carers may be parents, partners, brothers, sisters, friends or children of any age.
In Australia, it is estimated that 2.6 million Australians or 1 in 5 households in Australia provide support to a family member or friend. In the UK, more than six million people (1 in 8 people), including 175,000 young carers under the age of 18, give their time in this way. These figures are estimates because caring is an activity that is often hidden.
It is estimated that carers save the Australian economy $19.3 billion annually. Carers are the major providers of community care services, delivering 74% of all services to people needing care and support.
What does caregiving involve?
There's no simple answer. Each care situation is different. It can range from assistance with the most basic tasks of daily living (feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting) to looking after people who are fairly independent but need help managing finances and transport. Carers also provide emotional support to some of the most vulnerable, isolated members of our community.
Read some personal caregiver stories here.
Given the figures, chances are we all know someone who may be a carer.
How can we help?
Be sensitive in your approach
Carers may initially seem unwilling or unable to accept offers of help. Be sensitive to the following thoughts and feelings often experienced by carers when offering assistance:
- A sense of duty and obligation to the person they are caring for
- A sense that other expect them to perform the caring role
- A wish to avoid troubling other people
- It's quicker and easier to do it themselves
- Accepting help is a sign of weakness or of not coping
- Feeling unable to return the help
- The person being cared for is resistant to another person being involved in their care.
What do carers say is helpful?
Acknowledgement of the carer role, their knowledge and experiences.
To be heard Being given the opportunity to share worries, feelings and experiences without being made to feel guilty.
Social contact Isolation is a problem commonly faced by most carers.
Respite Breaks from caring by sharing the care through the involvement of relatives, friends and neighbours.
Recognition of the carer as an individual Carers can often feel as it they've lost their own identity. They have their own needs, hopes and concerns. These are important.
The national theme for Carers Week 2006 will be Anyone, Anytime . Anyone, Anytime is about recognising that becoming a carer is often unexpected.
No one ever thinks it will happen to them. Do you?
There are many resources on the internet for carers, some dedicated to caregiving in particular situations, including young carers, caring for individuals with dementia or mental illness. I have given some general caregiver links below. I was unable to find any general resource for the USA. If anyone has this information or other useful links, please email the details to healthpsychAThotmail.com and I will modify the list below.
Crossroads. Caring for Carers
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers
Young Carers Net