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.
The Government initiative Carer Gateway is an Australia-wide network that connects carers with support services around the country.
Call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 or visit CarerGateway.gov.au to connect with local support and services to help you with your caring role.
What support is available for carers in Australia?
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, individual 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.
Carer support groups
Community run carer support groups can offer a safe and understanding environment to talk about your caring role. These groups can be organised around caring for someone with a particular disability or condition and offer the support and advice of other carers who are experiencing or have experienced situations similar to yours.
There are also support groups available for Indigenous Australians or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) carers.
Carer support groups are completely confidential, 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 carer role to refresh, attend appointments or need someone to take over when you are unable to care due to illness or time away.
Carer Gateway can help with 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, Carer Gateway can help organise a plan for this.
Information on local carer support, disability and community services from Carer Gateway is free and confidential. To find out more call 1800 422 737.
There are 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 – a resource to help connect you to local support services and other carers in a similar situation, and provide 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
You may be eligible for income support through Carer Payment or Carer Allowance from Centrelink if you and the person you are caring for meet the requirements. Call 13 27 17 Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm or check online at servicesaustralia.gov.au to see if you are eligible for financial support as a carer.
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 on your health and wellbeing.
What support do you find helpful as a carer? Tell us in the comments below.