Unpaid carers have faced unique challenges over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Carers Week, October 10-16, 2021, provides an opportunity to recognise, celebrate and raise awareness of the diversity of Australia’s millions of carers and their caring roles.
The theme of National Carers Week this year is ‘Millions of Reasons to Care’, and the aim is to bring attention to the work of carers and paint an authentic picture of caring in Australia.
Carers are people who provide unpaid care or support to family or friends with a disability, mental health condition, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or other drug issue, or who is frail aged.
The role often goes unrecognised or under-appreciated and can have a significant impact on the carer’s wellbeing, or their ability to work, study and socialise.
During COVID-19, many carer-support services have been closed.
The isolation we have all become accustomed to enduring during the pandemic is also particularly difficult for unpaid carers who are already often isolated themselves.
Many care recipients also happen to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, adding to the underlying stresses of an already extraordinary year.
A silver lining of COVID-19 has been the increase in flexible work arrangements, which has given carers much-needed hope they can pursue careers by fitting work around the changeable demands of caring.
You can’t pour from an empty cup
Tania Teague cares for her mother Anita, who has a degenerative condition called spinocerebellar ataxia.
The condition affects her mother’s motor skills, and has meant she can no longer live independently at home.
Initially, Tania’s father cared for Anita, but at the end of 2015, Tania returned to Australia and saw her father needed help, too.
Tania shared caring responsibilities with her father until he became sick himself, ending up in hospital and eventually dying.
She has now been her mother’s full-time carer for over five years.
Tania said she came across the Carer Gateway in 2015, and has used it to learn about being a carer and to discover the support available to her.
“Through the Carer Gateway I have used respite care a few times and that has been really beneficial,” Tania said.
“When I was caring for dad and planning his funeral, mum still needed full-time care, so I needed this support.
“I have also used the self-guided coaching, which I found a really good way to reset and re-balance my expectations and mental health in my own time.
“I’ve learnt to look after myself by taking even small moments to step away and self-care.
“If I hadn’t come across Carer Gateway, the navigation of the carer system would have been quite difficult.
“Carer Gateway has made me a better carer. It’s helped me to take that time I need, for me, so I can be there for mum.”
National Carers Week runs from October 10-16, 2021. To find out more, visit https://carersweek.com.au/