- Caring for an ageing loved one is a rewarding and purposeful experience, but not without its challenges
- Respite options are available so both you and the person you care for can be supported and cared for
- Confidential counselling is a handy tool to make sure your mental health and wellbeing is looked after in a positive manner
As a carer of an older loved one, it is easy to forget about caring for yourself. Perhaps you spend your time looking after a partner who lives with dementia or has suffered a heart attack or stroke.
It may be your parents – who are ageing naturally – just needing some help around the home to live independently or your partner who has been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. You may even help out an elderly neighbour on a regular basis. Informal carers can take on multiple caring duties for a variety of people in their life.
But sometimes it is the carer who may need help, whether to take care of their own tasks, for mental health purposes or their own wellbeing.
If you do find yourself in need of support, for yourself or the person you care for, continue reading to find out what support options are available for informal carers.
Government support options
If you or a loved one already receive Government funded aged care services, you may be able to access services and supports through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) or Home Care Package (HCP).
Carers can benefit from certain supports, like respite care or a care worker for your partner or parent, through the CHSP or a HCP as it takes the burden off of you to provide specialised support to your older loved one. This can also help if you’re caring for a parent and are not always available.
If you’re caring for your partner, you may find you cannot do as much for them. Additional aged care support can help and give you a break from your normal tasks, like services that assist with shopping, transport, personal care, gardening or cleaning.
Government funded aged care also offers respite services, a form of short-term care. There are a few respite care options you can choose from . To learn more about respite care, read our article, ‘What types of respite care are there?‘
If you would like to learn more about Government funded home care and how it can assist you in your caring duties, you can read our informative article, ‘Help at home explained’.
Accessing other support options
To find resources, information and support services that may assist you as a carer, you can visit the Carer Gateway website.
The Carer Gateway is a Government program designed to provide free services and support for carers. You can access this information and support no matter who you care for, whether they are a person with disability, require support due to a medical condition, or are an older person.
A wide range of services can be accessed, including counselling, coaching, skills coursing and peer support groups.
You can even use the Carer Gateway for assistance with specific support programs and respite – both planned or emergency.
The Carer Gateway is also where you access emergency respite services when an incident occurs that takes you away from your own care responsibilities at the last minute. You can learn more about emergency respite in our article, ‘How to use respite in an emergency‘.
For more information about Carer Gateway, read our article ‘Getting support and help through the Carer Gateway’.
You can also access supports, resources, and information through organisations such as Carers Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Dementia Australia.
Carers Australia is the national peak body for unpaid and informal carers, providing advocacy at a national level. You can also find information for carers and a wide range of resources on their website, or over the phone on 1800 422 737.
OPAN represents and advocates for Australia’s aged community, and you can visit the OPAN website or call them on 1800 700 600 if you require support for aged care rights.
For support options specific to dementia, Dementia Australia has a 24 hour National Dementia Helpline, and services for carers and families. You can call on 1800 100 500.
Benefits of mental health services
While it is beneficial to access carer support services for respite purposes and care assistance, you should also look for services that help maintain your wellbeing and health.
A caring role for a loved one is challenging. According to the latest report from Carers Australia, the 2022 Carer Wellbeing Survey, almost 70 percent of carers worry about the future of the person they care for.
Common concerns include the decline in health of the person being cared for and who would look after them if the carer was no longer able to help.
Male carers are reportedly less likely than female carers to reach out for help, especially in those aged 65 and older.
There are plenty of supportive and confidential services available if you do find yourself struggling to speak up and talk about your own mental health.
Counselling services are available through the Carer Gateway Counselling Service to provide you with tailored carer support.
Meanwhile, organisations such as Dementia Australia provide counselling services specific to experiences with dementia, and you may find relevant organisations for other diseases or disorders do the same.
You can also speak to a General Practitioner (GP) for local mental health referrals or assistance.
Have you accessed any support services as a carer that has helped? Share your experience with us in the comments below.