Carers should aim to provide necessary physical, mental, and emotional assistance
to their care recipients. Carers may help with health, personal care, and social routines, and they may also be involved in identifying products, tools, programs, and resources that could help their dependents.
In Australia, almost 2.7 million people provide care for someone with a disability
, medical condition
, or mental illness
, or someone who requires care due to old age
The Australian Government’s Department of Social Services provides federal support for carers, including a new Integrated Carer Support Service model
that focuses on providing carers with early-intervention assistance.
Currently, the Integrated Carer Support Service offers phone-based counselling services, online coaching resources, and educational resources to unpaid Australian carers. Soon, the service plans to also introduce carer needs assessment and planning programs, additional in-person and phone-based counselling and support services, emergency crisis support access, targeted financial support packages, and assistance to identify helpful local services.
There are a number of government-based programs and initiatives that target specific types of carers.
Some programs operate to assist young carers, the carers of young people, and carers of people with severe mental illnesses and/or intellectual disabilities. Programs and services include:
- Support groups
- Financial assistance, grants, and bursaries
- Respite care
- Education and training
The Australian Government
offers a range of financial payments and benefit schemes for unpaid carers of dependents with disabilities. These include:
- Carer Payment – an income support payment to financially assist carers who are unable, as a result of their care responsibilities, to maintain regular paid employment
- Carer Allowance – an income supplement for those who provide daily home care for a dependent with a disability or mental health condition
- Child Disability Assistance Payment – an annual payment for recipients of the Carer Allowance, who care a child under 16 years of age with a disability
- Carer Adjustment Payment – a one-off payment for families who do not qualify for regular income support payments
- Carer Supplement – a payment made to Carer Allowance recipients for each person for whom they care
Carers may also be eligible to receive a Bereavement Payment
, Pensioner Education Supplement
, or Pharmaceutical Allowances
. Carers may be entitled to Rent Assistance or Concessions. In some circumstances, carers are entitled to use Companion Cards for free or subsidised access to participating public services and locations.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Carers
The NDIS supports people with permanent and significant disabilities to access adequate support, connecting patients with relevant community services including doctors, support groups, schools, and social groups.
The NDIS can support carers
by funding respite care to provide them with short breaks from their care duties. This respite care can take many different forms. A dependent NDIS funding recipient might be assisted to join a community group, attend a class or out-of-home stay with the aim of making friends or developing skills, or participate in community activities. Alternatively, the NDIS can provide temporary extra in-home personal supports. All of these services aim to allow carers short amounts of time to take a break from caring and manage their own physical and mental wellbeing.
Tips for Carers
Providing significant, ongoing care for a dependent person can at times feel overwhelming. It’s that important that carers take the time to look after their own physical and mental wellbeing, so as to provide optimal care for their dependent care recipient.
- Take time to maintain their own physical and mental health—this could include incorporating regular exercise and managing diet, taking time out when necessary, maintaining healthy sleep patterns, visiting the doctor’s, and introducing mental and health and stress management strategies
- Access support groups and/or counselling services as needed
- Ask for support from other friends and family members
- Make arrangements for respite if necessary
- Learn about services and supports that are available both nationally and locally for carers of dependent people
More Than Care
When carers are responsible for extensive care responsibilities that are needed to maintain the wellness and lifestyle of their dependent care recipient, old relationship dynamics can sometimes feel as if they’re being forgotten.
It’s important that familial carers and their dependent care recipients remember and maintain their dynamic outside of care responsibilities. While a carer may be responsible for providing significant assistance, it can be helpful to share outings or entertainment (for example, a movie or television show) that serve as a reminder of the friendship that still exists outside of care duties.
Other Resource Services
There are a several resources services that operate nationally and locally to support Australian carers, including advocacy organisations:
Carers Australia is the peak representative body for Australian carers. It works to support caregivers with their health, wellbeing, resilience, and financial security through support group and counselling services, corporate services, and education and training assistance. The organisation also provides advocacy services, delivers care initiatives, and manages awareness campaigns.
Carers Australia operates nationally but also facilitates branches in all Australian states and territories:
Carer Gateway is a comprehensive service that helps Australian carers to access information, education, and support. Carer Gateway offers phone counselling, an online forum, and self-guided coaching and skills courses. It also provides information and resources on working with health services, navigating legal matters, and speaking up for a dependent. Carer Gateway’s resources can be helpful in planning emergency management and end of life care, or organising logistical issues like working, studying, and self-care around caring responsibilities.
Carer Support is not-for-profit organisation that works to provide support to people caring for a family member in Adelaide’s eastern and southern suburbs. The organisation aims to provide responsive and meaningful assistance at low to no cost. Carer Support also provides assistance to senior people who want help to maintain their independence.
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The care of dependent people is an important responsibility. This kind of care is usually carried out by professional carers or family members, who assist their dependent care recipients with a wide range of day to day tasks.