The theme of this year’s national event is ‘Why We Care’ and focuses on the everyday stories of real unpaid carers explaining why they do what they do, and to “paint an authentic picture” of what it is to be an unpaid carer in Australia in this day and age.
Carers Australia runs the event, with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ara Creswell highlighting the massive contribution of Australia’s unpaid carers.
“Unpaid carers contribute so much to our nation, with the value of their caring role estimated at $60.3 billion per year,” she says.
“Anyone at anytime can become a carer and each year National Carers Week provides an opportunity to educate and raise awareness among all Australians about the diversity of carers and their caring roles, helping to improve awareness in our communities and also helping those people who may not know that they are carers to self-identify, letting them know that there are supports and services available.
“For us, National Carers Week 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.”
Victorian couple Sheryl and Rod Phin are just one family sharing the caring role across the nation, supporting Rod’s mother Val who is 91 years old and living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
The couple have been carers for the past nine years, and, ageing themselves, they are starting to feel the need for support, and are accessing a dementia specific respite through local provider Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH).
“I do the cooking, washing and Val needs help with dressing,” Mrs Phin explains.
“I’ve aged quite considerably in the last five years.
“It’s very draining because we are constantly watching her and reminding her to do everyday things, making sure she doesn’t accidentally harm herself.”
Each Sunday, the Phin’s drop Val off at a nearby VMCH’s respite facility - Carinya - where she stays for two nights to help free up their time and give them a break from the demanding role of caring.
“Obviously as Val’s disease progresses, so do her needs, so things are getting hard,” Mrs Phin says.
“While she’s at Carinya, it takes a bit of pressure off.”
Ms Creswell says unpaid carers, like Mr and Mrs Phin, are the “backbone of our aged care and disability care”.
“Unpaid carers provide physical and personal care, assistance with lifting, showering, feeding and transport, they manage medications, deal with emergencies, and provide emotional, social and financial support,” she explains.
“The caring role is often intensive and can impact on unpaid carers’ physical and mental health, social connections, relationships, and their opportunities to maintain education, earn an income or to learn new skills.
“Unpaid carers need and deserve support.
“The chances are that at some stage in your life you will either be a carer, need a carer or know a carer.
“National Carers Week provides the opportunity for all Australians to become more aware of something that is affecting millions of people right now and will likely affect us all at some stage in our lives.”
Ms Creswell encourages all carers to visit the Carers Australia website and share ‘why they care’.
“Doing so will go a long way to informing the general public about the extraordinary things you do and the reasons why, and will certainly help us to convey your valuable stories to the broader community and Government,” she explains.
She adds that there are a number of events being held across the community from now until 20 October, and also encouraged people who know an unpaid carer - be a friend, neighbour or colleague - to check in with them, ask how they are getting on and if you are able to offer them any support.
“Unpaid carers do so much for so many every day of the year,” Ms Creswell says.
“National Carers Week is the time for us all to celebrate and acknowledge all they do and give them a deserved place in the spotlight.”
To find out more information, to share your story or check out what events are on near you, visit http://www.carersweek.com.au/.