Stories of love, courage, persistence and patience will be the focus of this year’s National Carers Week which will celebrate Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers, in a movement called “WHY WE CARE”.
The week, which is run by Carers Australia, begins on 14 October, with activities and events funded by the Department of Social Services.
Chief Executive Officer of Carers Australia, Ara Cresswell, says it’s vital to acknowledge the contribution of unpaid carers and hopes the sharing of carer experiences increases awareness and support for these valued people.
“We want to see an Australia where everyone, including carers, has a fair go; an Australia where unpaid carers are recognised and supported during and after their caring role across all spectrums of society.”
Ms Cresswell says National Carers Week is the perfect opportunity to shine the spotlight on our nation’s 2.7 million unpaid carers.
“For us, it provides a greater public spotlight than perhaps we receive in the rest of the year, to enable us to raise greater awareness not just of unpaid carers among the broader community, but of the supports and services available to them.”
Heartfelt tales like those from Tania Giorgio from the Australian Capital Territory, demonstrate the intense love and challenges of being an unpaid carer to a loved one.
“I care because we are so close, I care because if I don't no one else will, I care because she is the sweetest, funniest most cheekiest sister in law.
“I agreed to be her legal guardian and as her legal guardian my role is to ensure that she is well taken care of, enjoys some quality of life and I am her voice and she needs to be heard.”
Barb Richardson from Victoria tells how she has been caring for her special needs daughter for over 48 years, but has been a solo carer for the last two decades after the father of her child passed away.
“I continue to care as I’ve always considered her a gift! She accepts whatever life throws at her smiling all the time! She is my inspiration, my love, my life my all. I will always be her carer.”
Dianne Hickey from New South Wales explains the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter.
“I care because I’m a Mum, because she’s my daughter, because family is everything, because she is precious, because she needs me, because I want to, because I love her,” she says.
“It’s that simple but it’s not always easy, it’s a challenge and I try to remain positive and happy.
“I want her to have a happy life and to be safe. It is a worry thinking about the future, about when I can no longer care for her.
“It breaks my heart. I love her, she’s my daughter, Kate.”
For Ruth from Queensland, who is caring for her husband who had a major heart attack at the start of this year, resulting in an acquired brain injury, the struggle to get the assistance they both need, is overwhelming.
“I'm his carer because no one else is going to step up and fight for our quality of living day to day, week to week, month by month.
“At 43 years old this is not something we thought about ... our lives have stopped while we deal with this… more information and help needs to be available to all carers.”
Her pain is also felt by Sue Downey from Queensland, who cared for her husband until he passed away from dementia in 2009.
“I know firsthand the pain carers experience watching a loved one change into someone they don’t know. My life was put on hold. I had moral, emotional, physical support from family and Carers Queensland. It prevented me from falling apart.”
“I empathise with and understand the journey Carers find themselves on. I have nothing but praise for them. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen.
Carers Australia is encouraging the general public to get involved by participating in or hosting a National Carers Week event, such as a morning or afternoon tea or a walk to allow the opportunity for carers to take some time out whilst informing friends, family and colleagues of the importance of carers and the support and caring services available.
However, there have also been calls to encourage carer friendly workplaces with 1 in 8 Australian employees also juggling a caring role.
Carers Australia is urging workplaces to become a registered Carer-Friendly Workplace thanks to their Work & Care initiative, a project that helps employers attract and retain workers by helping employee carers combine paid work with their unpaid caring role.
To read more National Carers Week stories and find events near you click here.