The role of a disability carer

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Caring for a person with disability is a role that often goes unrecognised, and it can include a range of physical and emotional supports. No two scenarios are the same, yet there are plenty of experiences carers will have in common with each other.

Key points

  • Carers provide a range of support and assistance for a family member or friend, including personal care, transportation or household chores
  • Becoming a carer can be sudden as it may be a child born with disability or a family member who suffers an accident or injury
  • Financial support is available for unpaid carers, such as the Carers Payment and Carers Allowance

Becoming a carer is not a direct process, as it could occur gradually or suddenly, and there are varying levels of care you may need to provide as a carer, meaning you may not even realise you fall into the category of a carer.

But if you are providing unpaid care and support to a family member(s) or a friend with a disability or other condition that requires ongoing support, you are considered an informal carer.

As a carer you may not be aware of the supports available to yourself, especially if the role is a new one.

This article outlines what a disability carer is, where you can find help, and more.

Who is considered a carer?

There is no rigid definition or example of a carer and it is important to recognise the support you provide may vary from others.

A disability carer can be anyone; a parent, partner, child, relative or friend of someone with a disability that requires assistance.

The person you care for may be a partner, child or parent, and they may require support due to a lifelong disability, chronic illness, mental illness or due to age.

There are over 2.65 million carers in Australia with approximately 861,000 classed as primary carers – which is someone who provides the majority of support for a person with disability or illness.

Seven out of every ten primary carers are women, and more than half provide at least 20 hours of support each week. One third of primary carers provide more than 40 hours of unpaid care each week.

The support a carer provides varies, as you may look after someone 24 hours a day, or on a casual basis throughout the week.

Common tasks that carers help with include:

  • Personal care, such as feeding, bathing or changing
  • Health care, including providing medication
  • Transport
  • Administrative support, such as bills and finances
  • Grocery shopping
  • Household chores and cooking
  • Emotional support

Often you will find that the role of a carer is gradual or unexpected. It may be your child or children that have a disability or you may be a child of a parent with a chronic illness and have taken on more responsibility with their care as you have grown older.

Unpaid care work can also result from a health incident to a close loved one, like a stroke or an accident/major injury.

Caring for a child with disability

If you are a parent of a child with disability, you may not necessarily think of yourself as a carer. But the support you provide may go above and beyond the usual expectations of a parent and it is important to recognise that.

As per the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 27 percent of carers provide support to a child or children and almost 90 percent of parents caring for a child are female.

Caring for a child with disability comes with a range of new challenges as you are likely learning about the disability as you go.

Sometimes a diagnosis may not be possible until birth, or after birth, and the answers to your questions may not be present either.

Life as a parent and carer can be life changing, as was the case for Sabine and Monice in our article, ‘Caring for a teen with disability – Sabine and Monice’.

However, you are not alone when it comes to caring for a child with disability. You may be able to receive disability supports through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

If your child does not qualify for NDIS funding, that does not lessen your role as a carer. You may also be able to access disability support without NDIS funding to ensure you can provide the best care possible.

Disability carer support services

As a carer, it can be difficult to clock off. Your support is there to fill the gaps of disability service providers, and, in some cases, it may be the only type of support the person you care for receives.

If you do care for someone else, it is important you look after yourself. Support options such as counselling, respite, and peer support are available for your benefit.

Carers Australia is the national peak body representing unpaid carers, and it is one of the leading resources available for information and carer support resources.

Another resource is the Carer Gateway, a Government program that provides free support and services for carers. You can also call them on 1800 422 737 for more information. If you would like to learn more about the Carer Gateway, read our article, ‘What can the Carer Gateway do for you’.

The NDIS website also includes resources for families and carers of people with disability.

Financial supports for carers

Informal care work is unpaid and it can be a financial challenge for many families. However, there are several financial support options available for carers and the people they care for.

The NDIS will fund specific disability supports that are required by the person or child you care for. NDIS funding is provided to individual participants through NDIS plans, so there will be a set amount of money allocated for services and equipment.

You can learn more about how the NDIS funding works through our article, ‘Understanding pricing in the NDIS’.

Government support is also available to carers in the form of a Carer Payment or Carer Allowance. Each payment features its own eligibility criteria.

The aim of this financial support is to ensure carers can still receive income if they are taking time off from working to be a carer.

The Carer Payment is available to someone who provides constant care to a person with a severe disability, illness or is an adult who is frail.

The Carer Allowance is for someone who provides additional daily care to someone with a disability, medical condition or an adult who is frail, but does not meet the tighter eligibility criteria for the Carer Payment.

You can also access the Carer Supplement, which is a once-off lump sum of $600 a year that you get on top of your allowance or payment.

These financial support options are available to help you provide the best care possible, while also supporting yourself financially.

As a carer for a person with disability, what resources do you use? Tell us in the comments below.

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What can the Carer Gateway do for you
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