Families and carers of people with disability provide everyday help and support that cannot be beaten!
Roughly 2.7 million Australians look after someone with disability, mental illness, a medical condition or the elderly.
Being a carer can have a huge impact on your life and physical and mental wellbeing - as well as being isolating at times. There are some great support options available to assist you if and when the role of a carer becomes too much.
Professional counselling is held in individual, couple or family sessions. Some counsellors offer their services over the phone, by email or through webcam. It is a great way to talk to someone about how you are feeling and learn some strategies to help you cope in a private and trusted environment. If you feel more comfortable having a one-on-one session or involving other family members, counselling is a good option for you.
Therapeutic counselling groups are specifically designed to provide carers with emotional support, the opportunity to connect with other carers and share experiences, as well as practical strategies to help you in your carer role. These groups meet regularly and promote an understanding and supportive environment. Attending a counselling or therapy group is a good way to share your experiences and feelings with like-minded people and is important in proving you are not alone. You can learn a lot from other people in similar situations, build a support network and make some new friends.
To find a registered counsellor or counselling groups in your local area, you can use an online directory such as Australia Counselling, Australian Counselling Association or contact Carers Australia.
Carer support groups
Community run carer support groups can offer a safe and understanding environment to talk about your caring role. These groups can often also be organised around caring for someone with a particular disability or condition and offer the support of other carers who are or have experienced situations similar to yours, offering support and advice along the way. There are also support groups available for Aboriginal or culturally and linguistically diverse carers.
Carer support groups are completely confidential and can provide practical and emotional support and also help you to:
● Discover new information
● Attend education or training workshops
● Get involved in leisure activities and relaxing outings
Groups are free of charge and meet regularly in community spaces.
Sometimes you need to take a break from your full time carer role to refresh. Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres (CRCCs) enable access to information and other supports appropriate to your needs, while also providing options for short-term and emergency respite. Regular respite can help reduce your need for emergency respite, and if required, CRCCs can help organise a plan for this.
Information on local carer support, disability and community services from CRCCs are free and confidential. For more information call your nearest CRCCs on 1800 052 222 during business hours or 1800 059 059 for emergency respite support.
There are also a number of support lines and websites to assist carers just like you in looking after someone with disability. Many support lines offer free or subsidised counselling.
Some helpful support lines include:
● Carer Gateway 1800 422 737 - phone an online resource to help connect you to local support services and other carers in a similar situation, advice on a range of topics such as health and wellbeing, financial and legal considerations.
● Carers Australia 1800 242 636 - runs support programs including short-term counselling for carers with qualified counsellors
● Relationships Australia 1300 364 277 - offers a range of services, such as counselling and mediation, by phone, online and face-to-face
● Lifeline 13 11 14 - offers 24/7 crisis support and phone counselling
Financial support for Carers
The Government has a number of financial assistance schemes to support people in a caring role. This is particularly handy if your responsibilities as a carer affects your ability to work or study.
If you give additional daily care to someone with a disability, serious illness or is frail and aged you may be able to receive a fortnightly Carer Allowance. You will need to meet an income test and the person you care for needs to score high enough on the assessment tools used for an adult or a child and have these needs for at least 12 months or the rest of their life. To find out more visit the Department of Human Services website or call 132 717.
This payment is for people who provide constant care for someone with a severe disability or illness. To be eligible for the Carer Payment you must be caring for one or more people with high care needs who will have these needs for at least six months or the remainder of their life, you must meet pension income and assets test limits and both you and the person you care for must both be residing in Australia.
To find out more about how you can apply click here or call 132 717.
If you receive the Carer Allowance, Carer Payment, Wife Pension and Department of Veteran Affairs Carer or Partner Service Pension, you are automatically eligible for the Carer Supplement. A fixed-rate of $600 will be paid to you each year. If you are a part-time carer you’ll get a part rate of the supplement.
To find out more visit the Department of Human Services website or call 132 717.
Being a carer of someone with disability can take its toll on your physical and mental health. Your role is important but it’s equally important to look after your own health and wellbeing. Try to take some time out for yourself to see a movie, do some exercise or socialise with friends. Remember to keep an open line of communication between those around you and speak to a trusted family member or friend if your carer role is starting to impact your health and wellbeing.