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Monday, May 23, 2022

Victoria’s unpaid carers: “don’t wait until you break” before seeking help

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A $1.4 million campaign is being launched today to encourage Victoria’s 700,000 unpaid carers, most of whom are women, to get the support they need via the Federal Government’s free Carer Gateway service.

Maryanne Tadic, general manager, Healthy Communities, at Merri Health, the lead Carer Gateway agency in Victoria, says the vast majority of Victoria’s unpaid carers are not accessing the assistance they need.

More than 10 per cent of every community in Victoria are unpaid carers.

“The result is that hundreds of thousands of Victorian carers are themselves suffering unnecessarily,” Tadic says.

Being a carer all-too-often brings increased stress, detrimental physical- and mental-health effects and financial hardship. It is vital that carers and their families get all the assistance possible…

Maryanne Tadic, Merri Health

“Being a carer all-too-often brings increased stress, detrimental physical- and mental-health effects and financial hardship.

“It is vital that carers and their families get all the assistance possible and for that reason we have designed this awareness campaign.

“The campaign will feature in print, television, radio, digital, outdoors, and across social media,” Tadic says.

The campaign’s plea to Victoria’s carers is: “don’t wait until you break” before seeking help.

“Because they are busy and are not paid for the caring they do, many carers do not realise that they are ‘carers’,” she says.

“They are simply exhausting themselves doing what they need to do to support a loved one, or friend who needs help.”

Tadic says carers are so busy that they don’t have the time to search for what help is available, let alone how to access that help.”

This awareness campaign aims to let carers know that there is a fast, free and simple way to get help. All they need to do is make a free phone call or visit the website.

Maryanne Tadic

“This awareness campaign aims to let carers know that there is a fast, free and simple way to get help.

“All they need to do is make a free phone call or visit the website.”

“There are no forms and you don’t even need a Medicare card to get help.”

The campaign is designed to let Victoria’s army of unpaid carers know that help is available at no cost via Carer Gateway (freecall 1800 422 737).

“You are a carer if you are looking after someone with a disability, a medical condition, mental illness or who is frail due to age.”

“All carers should rest assured that any services they get via Carer Gateway does not impact any assistance they may receive via other organisations and agencies, such as NDIS, My Aged Care, Centrelink and so on.”

Kellie King’s story

Numurkah grandmother Kellie King’s carer journey would be familiar to most of Victoria’s 703,000-strong army of unpaid carers: for years she couldn’t bring herself to admit, even to herself, that she was actually a carer.

“I didn’t identify as a carer, I wasn’t on a carer payment,” she says.

“I saw myself as a mother, daughter and grandmother. I was just doing what needed to be done.”

Until reaching out to Carer Gateway, King was exhausted caring for her father, who has dementia, her mother, who has chronic heart issues, her daughter, who has an acquired brain injury (due to a stroke), and her grandson, who has autism.

For King the crunch point came with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic when she realised she just couldn’t do it all anymore.

And that’s where Carer Gateway came in.

Carer Gateway provides a range of tailored support – including counselling services, respite care financial support, group support, carer-coaching and skills courses – which allowed her to return to work.

Kellie King was exhausted caring for her father, mother, daughter, and grandson, but by accessing the right supports through Carer Gateway, she got the opportunity to choose to step away from fulltime caring, and take a back seat. 

“Government systems are complex and Carer Gateway is needed to help people navigate the system and get the help they need,” King says.

“Often becoming a carer is not a conscious decision. In families, someone is forced into a carer position. The loss of income to that household is massive, we see marriage breakdown etc because someone has to step into a carer role.”

What is often not talked about is the ability to choose to no longer continue to be an exhausted carer, Kellie says.

“By accessing the right supports through Carer Gateway, I got the opportunity to choose to step away from fulltime caring, and take a back seat.  

“This could not have been achieved without going through a process, supported by the Carer Gateway with information, counselling and support. 

“I can continue to care, but in a much more sustainable and effective way, the impact is no longer as great and I finally have time for me,” she says.

  • To get in touch with Carers Gateway either click here, or freephone: 1800 422 737 – Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm local time, to be put in contact with a service in your local area. 

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