With this week being National Carers Week, it’s a good time to note that there are 772,200 Australians involved in informal care of Australians aged over 65, representing 35 per cent of the 2.65 million carers across the country.
Many Australians do not recognise the difference their caring role makes, providing the foundation for our aged, disability, palliative and community care systems.
Chief Executive Officer of Carers Australia, Liz Callaghan, points to a ‘staggering’ statistic: unpaid care work in Australia is valued at $77.9 billion per annum.
‘We know that unpaid carers in Australia go above and beyond to care for family members and friends in need, but to see such a huge dollar figure put on these caring roles really helps to bring their vital contribution to the community into perspective.’
Callaghan tells Aged Care News that care work, whilst often a rewarding way to give back to those we love, can take a toll on a person’s physical, emotional, social and psychological wellbeing, with the COVID pandemic exacerbating these pressures ‘tenfold’.
“I think it’s fair to say that they experienced significant instability during the this kind of unprecedented period.
“Carers were sheltering at home and looking after the most vulnerable people, not having services come into their home, taking on additional tasks, but also being extremely worried about making sure that the person they care for is protected from COVID.
“So it’s been very, very stressful for carers.”
Callaghan recommends anyone in contact with a carer should make a special effort to make them feel supported and valued, particularly this week.
“Everyone can do something for a carer, even if it’s just acknowledging and thanking them for what they do,”
Callaghan also points to the responsibility of workers in the health industry, who she says should ensure they are considering the health and wellbeing of the carer alongside their primary patient.
“If you are aware that there is a carer involved in the care of the person that you’re delivering a service to, you have a responsibility to ensure and check in on that carer and make sure that their needs are also being met.”
Callaghan said anyone at any time can become a carer and National Carers Week is a time to raise awareness among all Australians of the enormous contribution carers make to our nation.”
Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston thanked unpaid carers for their remarkable contribution to our nation.
“Carers work quietly and lovingly without fanfare. They make an incredible contribution to the lives of many, as well as our broader communities,” Ruston said.
“No two caring responsibilities are the same and we simply wouldn’t be the country we are without them.”
Now in its 29th year, National Carers Week is more important than ever before as carers around the country continue to experience significant stress and caring responsibilities as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
“It is important to check in on those carers around you and ensure they are also taking care of themselves,” Ruston said.
Even before the effects of the pandemic had been accounted for, unpaid carers were estimated to be providing 2.2 billion hours of unpaid care last year – over 42 million hours every week.
“Carers have been doing a tremendous job throughout this difficult time, not only maintaining their caring roles in trying circumstances, but often going above and beyond to ensure the safety of those they care for,” Callaghan said.
This year’s National Care week theme is ‘Millions of Reasons to Care’ and carers from around the country have joined up as ambassadors for National Carers Week 2021.
These carers have shared their experiences of caring for their loved ones and tell why they care to showcase the many different forms of caring.
Below is one of Carers Australia’s ambassadors, Lorraine, who cares for husband Steve. Steve has Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Dementia.
Carers Australia will be hosting a range of online events during National Carers Week.
For further information about Carer’s Australia, visit carersaustralia.com.au.