Caring for a loved one is rewarding, but an informal carer may find they lose out on “me” time.
- Disability carers are more likely to experience loneliness and miss out on social and educational opportunities
- Support is available for carers of all ages, including respite care, counselling and educational grants
- Workplaces and social circles can also support carers through considerate actions and understanding
According to a 2022 Carers Australia survey, 62 percent of carers lack time for themselves and that often puts their own wellbeing at risk. They may also miss out on beneficial social and work opportunities.
It is important for a carer to care for themselves, as it enables them to best look after the people around them. If you are a carer, or know one, these are the main support options available.
Caring can be a positive role to undertake as more than 50% find it satisfying and believe it has provided them with meaning and purpose. Yet carers are two and a half times more likely to have low wellbeing than the average Australian.
While carers take care of the people close to them that need that support, there’s often no one around to care for them.
Without the right support, unpaid carers are more likely to experience significant health problems, loneliness and financial hardship.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources available for disability carers looking for help.
The Government-run Carer Gateway website is one resource that can provide dedicated carer information and support, and links to services and support groups. Counselling is also available through the Carer Gateway Counselling Service website or over the phone on 1800 422 737.
If you want to find out more about the Carer Gateway, we have more information in our article, ‘What can the Carer Gateway do for you?’
Elsewhere, dedicated support services are available for parents and carers of children with disability.
My Time is a support program funded by the Department of Social Services, providing peer support services across Australia. You can meet other carers and parents with similar experiences for direct peer support.
You can also find support through peak body for carers, Carers Australia, which provides a range of services, supports and resources available for carers.
Other support services may be available through specific disability associations and providers of the person you are caring for. You can contact them directly or visit their website for more information on carer support.
Respite care and care relief
As a carer you will need time off for yourself. It’s crucial for your wellbeing that you can rest, relax and feel free to do so. Respite care is one way for a carer to enjoy a break while making sure support for the person they care for continues.
Respite care can be provided informally by friends or family, or through a respite service. These services may be accessible as part of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan or through My Aged Care for people aged 65 and over.
Depending on what you’re after, respite care can be provided for a few hours a week, overnight, or for a weekend. This allows you, the carer, to participate in events, travel, or just have a day to yourself, without having to worry about the safety of the person with disability you care for.
There are even respite options that a carer and person with disability can participate in together, designed with disability support and social interaction in mind.
For more information on the types of respite available for a person with disability and their carer, read our article ‘Looking for respite? Learn what options are available’.
Looking after young carers
More than 235,000 people under the age of 25 are carers, making up close to 10 percent of the total number of carers in Australia. That figure could be even higher as the Australian Census does not record information on people under 15 years of age.
The role of a young carer is a challenging one as it can easily affect their social life, work life or schooling. They may have to prioritise caring over their own activities, including homework or hanging out with friends, so they can take care of a loved one with a disability.
Some young carers grow into the role of caring, for example, for a parent or sibling with disability. Therefore, they may not be aware of the support that’s available for them.
If you do know a young carer, look to engage or socialise with them in a way that suits their schedule or caring requirements.
It can also help to speak to a teacher to raise awareness of their additional responsibilities at home and to see what supports or modifications can be made to assist them with their schooling and extra duties.
Young carers looking for help and information can utilise the Young Carers Network to find support services, resources, news and local events catering to young people.
The Young Carers Network also supports those who are looking for support with educational opportunities but need financial assistance. Young carers can apply for a bursary – a monetary award – for education needs and resources. It’s one resource available to keep them engaged and active.
Additionally, young carers can access other mainstream supports, like through Carer Gateway and Carer Australia services.
Support at work
Carers often struggle the most when balancing work and caring responsibilities. Just 59 percent of carers aged 15 – 64 are employed, compared to 81.5 percent of people without care responsibilities, according to Carers Australia.
Lower levels of employment contribute to financial hardship and poor wellbeing, particularly in those who cannot take on full-time work due to caring responsibilities.
Having an employer that provides an inclusive work environment that allows you to pursue work opportunities, while not impacting your carer duties, can be really important for your health and wellbeing, as well as financially.
If you suddenly take on carer duties, you should see if your workplace will accommodate these changes. For instance, providing flexible working hours and arrangements to suit your needs, working from home and time off for appointments.
Only half of carers feel like they can speak to an employer or supervisor about their caring role, while 16 percent have never told their supervisor. Young carers are amongst the least confident when approaching an employer about their caring duties.
Being open with your employer about your situation can be incredibly beneficial and get appropriate modifications and interventions put in place earlier.
Under Australian worker law, informal carers are also able to access paid carer’s leave to care for someone close to you – which can ensure you are with your person with disability when you need to. The leave you take will come out of your personal leave balance.
Workplaces may also recognise that a personal carer may live with someone who is vulnerable to viruses like COVID-19 due to a medical condition or disability. This could be through encouraging or supporting the wearing of masks in the office or allowing you to work from home to ensure you don’t endanger the person you care for.
Are you a disability carer who has accessed support for yourself? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.